getting fit - walking 10000 stepsExercise is one of the three pillars of health. (The other two, according to Czeisler at the Harvard Medical School, are exercise and eating well.) And, better health and well-being lead to increased productivity.

But, if you’re not a gym rat or have gimpy knees that keep you from training for a marathon, walking will do the trick. Walking can help you lose or maintain your weight, build stamina, and keep a healthy heart. Walking also helps to reduce blood pressure and increase muscle strength.

Aim for 10,000 steps a day.

Started by the Japanese as a marketing campaign, 10,000 steps a day has been adopted by medical authorities – including the American Heart Association – as a healthy goal.

It’s not as daunting as you think. The average person walks between 3,000 and 4,000 steps a day. Each 2,000-2,500 steps is about a mile. I live in New York City so it’s easy to exceed 10,000 steps a day. Just yesterday I walked to and from brunch and dinner dates covering over 40 blocks. At 20 city blocks to a mile, I knocked out 5,000 steps with two activities. But regardless of where you live, knowledge (steps per activity) and habit (doing those activity regularly) can pave the way to 10,000 steps. Here are a few everyday activities and practices to get you started:

  • Shop locally as much as you can and walk to and from the stores.
  • Take the stairs.
  • Extend your dog walks. Baxter will love you for it.
  • Never sit for more than an hour at home or in the office. Stretch your legs, even if it’s just a walk around the room.
  • Always eat lunch outside the office. Even if you bring your lunch to work, find a park or some other place – preferably a few blocks away – to eat.
  • If you do end up at the gym, start each workout with a 20 minute walk on the treadmill. If you leave it for the end, you’ll skip it more often than not. Listen to a podcast to ward off boredom.
  • Join a walking club, or start one.
  • Get a walking buddy.
  • Track your progress. See startwalkingnow.org for an online tracking program and lots of useful information.
  • When you reach your goal of 10,000 steps a day, increase the intensity by walking faster or looking for hilly stretches.

Less than 5,000 steps per day is considered a sedentary lifestyle and there will be days when that’s all you’ll be able to manage, but try not to fall below that number.

Just as knowing the nutritional and caloric value of the food you consume leads to a more mindful and healthy diet, so does knowing which activities contribute to your goal of 10,000 steps a day. Initially, a pedometer can help you you determine the number of steps but may be abandoned as you move from a sedentary lifestyle and develop walking habits to a healthier and fit you.

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