Walking is one of the easiest and best activities for losing weight and staying fit. To get the most benefit, the gold standard is to aim for 10,000 steps a day.
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But sometimes it’s difficult to fit that many steps in, especially during the workweek. Who has the time? Exercise physiologist, Christopher Travers, MS, offers some simple tips to smash your walking goals and improve your fitness levels.
“This magic number of steps is the equivalent of moving almost five miles,” says Travers. While this distance might, at first, be daunting, he says when you walk this distance, you’ll burn somewhere between 35 and 120 calories per mile. “It all depends on your pace, and how well your body adapts to taking on oxygen and using fuel for energy,” he says.
Boost your heart health by walking more
Newton’s first law of motion explains that objects in motion stay in motion. Conversely, objects at rest stay at rest. If you’re mostly sedentary and not moving, other parts of your body that work best while moving — like blood flow, for example — don’t move either. Moving around is important for heart health. A sedentary lifestyle could lead to health problems, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes among others.
Cardiovascular exercise, such as walking, can lower your resting heart rate, blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugars while reducing your risk of developing diabetes or heart disease. What’s more, it can help you achieve a healthy weight.
It turns out, it’s not too difficult to reach the 10,000-step milestone on a daily basis. Adding in a quick jaunt around the block or at your local park can significantly add steps to your day. You don’t have to run a marathon. However, it’s important to aim for at least 10 minutes of nonstop walking to reap the health benefits.
At first, don’t worry about how fast you’re moving or how far you’ve gone. Start small. Consistency is key. “You don’t have to make it intense — just be sure to make it consistent movement,” says Travers.
Reaching your daily and weekly goals — a little at a time
Here are four simple ways to add steps to your day — almost without feeling it — and also obtain the benefits of 10 minutes of consecutive walking:
- Park in the space farthest from the door in every parking lot. Whether you’re at the mall, the rec center, your workplace or the grocery store, always park as far away from your destination as possible.
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Walking up the stairs will help toward your goal for cardiovascular exercise, too.
- Use the bathroom farthest from your desk or station at work. If you work in a large building, this makes a big difference. You can even find bathrooms on other floors in a multi-floor office building — and don’t forget to take the stairs there and back.
- Walk during your lunch hour. Take 10 minutes from your allowed lunchtime to go for a walk, if you’re able. By the end of the week, you want to achieve, at minimum, a total of 150 minutes of consistent movement. But you don’t have to follow a structured schedule each day. Go for a 10-minute walk during lunch one day, and the next day do a 45-minute walk in the morning before work. That’s 55 minutes toward your goal of 150 minutes.
You can start small, and build
If you’re not used to walking regularly, start off with five minutes of consecutive walking. Or if that’s still too difficult or intimidating, aim for three minutes of walking at a time. As long as you become more active, you’re doing more for your body than sitting down on your couch and just watching TV.
Whether you’re striving for those 10,000 daily steps or 150 minutes of consecutive steps per week, trying to improve your overall health is your ultimate goal. “As long as you begin moving daily, you’ll find taking those steps will start becoming easier,” says Travers.