There are some numbers we all know. An apple a day. Eight glasses of water. Ten thousand steps. If not necessarily exact science, they offer pretty good guidance on living a healthy, balanced life.
But that last one can be difficult in our hectic days, especially if many of those hours are spent sitting in an office. Standing desks are a great to get employees up, but they fall just short of getting workers moving. During the daily grind, 10,000 steps can seem daunting.
That 10,000-steps-a-day mantra likely got its start around the 1964 Toyko Olympics. A company created a pedometer called the man-po-kei, which roughly translates to 10,000 step gauge.
Despite its gimmicky origins, the daily goal has been adopted by numerous governments and health organizations as one people should aspire to reach. That level of activity each day, some say, can lower your risk of some big illnesses, help you sleep better and increase your self-esteem. A bit of time walking each day seems like a low price tag for all those health benefits.
But, many Americans struggle to hit this magic number. The average American walks about half that — or about 5,117 steps daily — according to a 2010 study published in the journal of the American College of Sports Medicine.
Nowadays, it’s easy to know exactly how much walking we do without participating in a scientific study. There are loads of modern pedometers on the market.
Types of fitness trackers
So many companies make these now that going shopping for one can seem overwhelming. Different types of fitness trackers monitor everything from the number of steps someone takes to their sleep cycle to their heart rate. But, with a little research, it’s easy to find the right fit no matter your needs and budget.
FitBit is probably the most well-known brand. They make eight different models, ranging from about $70 to $250. Even the littlest FitBit, the Zip, tracks steps taken, distance walked, calories burned and active minutes each day.
Jawbone makes three fitness trackers, from as little as $60 and go up to nearly $200. Its UP3 band not only counts the number of steps taken, but also monitors the wearer’s sleep patterns and heart rate.
While all of these have the basic pedometer function, some outrank others in design, budget friendliness or accuracy. Once you’ve got a snazzy new pedometer and, hopefully, some comfortable work shoes, but how do you actually get more steps out of your day?
Whether you work out of an office, work from home, hit the road for business travel, or do some combination of all three, here are some helpful tips for upping your walking game wherever your job takes you.
Getting more steps at the office
Start with your morning commute. If you take transit, get off the bus or train a few stops early to get some early morning steps into your tally. If you drive, consider transit or try parking further than normal.
Take the stairs in your building. Some pedometers will even track the number of floors climbed – bonus points!
Plan some walking meetings instead of booking the board room and do some laps around the office or the block while de-briefing with a colleague. If you have to be tied to your desk during meetings, start a weekly walking group during lunch or, if you’re feeling ambitious, before or after work.
Squeeze in a few extra steps whenever you can: spend a portion of your lunch break outside, choose a farther coffeeshop or use a bathroom on a different floor. Don’t feel guilty about sneaking in a few extra steps here and there; research shows exercise can improve work productivity.
Getting more steps at the home office
It can be even harder to reach 10,000 steps when you live and work in the same space. There isn’t the option of commuting on foot, so you have to get extra creative.
Maybe, on some days, you can opt to walk to a nearby co-working space or hip coffee shop to bunker down with your to-do list.
Try to schedule at least one out-of-the-house work errand a day, like meeting a client, mailing parcels or buying supplies. Move your printer or phone to the opposite end of the house or apartment to get you to move each time you need to use them. And speaking of your phone — take your calls to go and pop out for a walk around the block!
You can also take advantage of not having to spend time commuting and use that extra time to get out and about. If you love animals, volunteer as a dog walker at your local shelter.
If you’d rather spend time with people, connect with others working from home, and start or join a walking group. Not only can this help log more steps than staying in, but also it can help combat some of the loneliness of working remotely.
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Getting more steps on a business trip
While this setting may make it seem harder to reach your daily goal, take advantage of traveling and explore your new surroundings. Book a hotel a little further away from where you’ll spend most of your time and take the scenic route to the office or your meetings.
Ask local co-workers to recommend a coffeeshop or funky neighborhood to explore during your lunch break. Sign up for a city walking tour or explore a local museum or gallery.
On the day of the trip, walk around the train station or airport — just try to avoid making any impulse purchases. On the train or plane, get up every once in awhile and walk the aisle. Also, it won’t count towards your pedometer count, but don’t forget to stretch!
For all these workplace situations, try to get your co-workers involved. Sometimes, nothing motivates us as well as some friendly intra-office competition. Most fitness trackers allow you to add friends and track their progress to see who’s logging the most steps each day — with a competitive group, you might be inspired to go beyond 10,000 steps on a regular basis.
One hint to help you win? Set an alarm on your pedometer (many offer this feature), your phone, or your computer to gently nudge you into activity when you’ve been sedentary for an hour or more. That way, you can’t forget to get out of that chair and start stepping.
Speaking of staying active on business trips, be sure not to miss the first tip in this list: 6 International Business Travel Tips From Our Frequent Fliers »