We all know that doing plenty of walking is good for us. It promotes bone and muscle strength, reduces the risk of chronic diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure, and improves balance and coordination. Walking also has a powerful effect on mental health, helping to alleviate stress and anxiety, and improve mood. But as the days get colder and darker, going out for a walk can be less appealing – making it harder to get our steps in.
Most fitness trackers set a default goal of completing 10,000 steps a day – a figure that many of us have become used to hearing. Though scientifically, it’s yet to be proven exactly which step count goal would be most beneficial for fitness and longevity. However, what we do know is that, in general, moving more is good for our minds and bodies, and aiming to increase your daily step count is a great way to start being more active.
It’s a good idea not to become too focused on reaching the specific 10,000 goal, as some days this won’t always be realistic, and might not reflect other exercise you do like cycling, or fitness classes. Instead, it could be useful to set your own goals. For example, if you currently walk 400 steps a day, then aim to start by increasing it to 4000 – which is the rough equivalent of around 2 miles. Then you can always build it up over time.
It’s also worth noting that Public Health England and the Royal College of GPs are also encouraging adults to focus on walking briskly, rather than counting steps alone. We recently wrote an introductory guide to power walking, which explains how, with the right technique, you can get a full body workout from introducing speed and power into your walking style.
If you’re looking to increase your step count in a bid to boost your activity levels, then there are lots of different ways you can do this – and some of them don’t even involve leaving the house! Here are 17 creative ways to increase your steps each day.
1. Track your steps
One of the best ways to increase your daily step count is to start tracking how much you’re walking. Fitness trackers and pedometers are great ways to stay motivated and encourage healthier habits because they increase accountability and make us more aware of our daily activity.
It can be easy to lose sight of how little we’re walking – particularly now, when many of us are spending more time at home – so getting confirmation that you’ve only walked 200 steps today could be the nudge you need to start making some lasting changes.
Simple pedometers track how many steps you do and shouldn’t cost more than £20. However, fitness trackers like Fitbit* can record lots of different things, like distance, heart rate, calories, and even sleep. You can buy both pedometers and more high-tech fitness trackers from Amazon, and if you want to find out a bit more about them, have a read of this article from the Telegraph. Once you start tracking how far you’re walking, you’ll probably find that you’re even more determined to increase your step count each day.
2. Walk to get your shopping
If you usually drive to the shops to buy food, why not consider walking instead? If your local supermarket or high street is within walking distance, deciding to walk there is a great way to boost your step count – and if you carry your shopping back home, you’ll also be doing a strength workout too. It’s best to bring a backpack with you to take your shopping home in, as they’re designed to carry weight, and it’ll be much easier than carrying multiple shopping bags.
Plus, if you’re walking home with your shopping, you might be forced to buy less than you would if you were driving – meaning you could get into the habit of doing a food shop more frequently – which means getting even more steps in!
Alternatively, if you don’t want to carry your shopping back home, you could always buy a shopping trolley and pull it along with you as you walk. Amazon sells a good range of shopping trolleys, as do Shopping Trolleys Direct.
3. Walk and talk
If you spend a lot of time at work on the phone, then deciding to take that business call outside while you walk can boost your step count by thousands. Alternatively, if you have one-on-one meetings with a colleague, then why not skip the meeting room or Zoom call, and have a walking meeting instead? You might find that getting outside helps give you a bit more inspiration, too.
This method works just as well when you’re at home: if you’re catching up with friends or family, consider taking the call while you walk around the block or to the local park – or, if you don’t fancy going outside, just walk around your home, or pace in the living room. For those of us who enjoy long conversations with loved ones, this can be a very enjoyable and effective way to up your step count!
4. Use walking to relieve stress
Whether it’s drinking alcohol, smoking, or eating sugary food, there are many ways we might try to deal with stress that aren’t good for our bodies. Getting outside and going for a walk is a great way to clear your head, feel more relaxed, and get a new perspective on things – and it’s obviously great for our health too. Whenever you feel anxious or angry, try to get into the habit of going for a walk, even if it’s just around the block.
You could even do a walking meditation as you stroll. If you use the Headspace app, you might want to check out their walking meditation (this is free for the first two weeks, and requires a subscription fee thereafter), or you can use this free walking meditation on the Mindful website. Aside from racking up lots more steps, when you get back home you’ll probably find you feel significantly calmer, positive and more grounded.
5. Do some household chores
We recently wrote about how doing household chores can be an unexpectedly good way to keep fit from home – and it’s just as effective for boosting your step count. Chores like mowing the lawn, gardening, mopping the floor and vacuuming can be great forms of cardio, so if you want to get some more steps in but don’t fancy heading out for a walk, why not get out the hoover instead? As an added bonus, you’ll wind up with a clean home as well as a higher step count!
6. Park further away
When we’re looking for a parking space, many of us are in the habit of driving round and round in the quest to find a spot right outside our destination. But why not deliberately choose a parking space that’s further away? It might not seem like much, but those extra steps to and from your car can quickly mount up.
So, if you can’t walk to the supermarket, park at the furthest end of the car park and get some bonus steps in – and if you’re visiting a friend or family member, park a few streets away and enjoy the walk.
7. Find a walking partner or group
If you don’t have a friend who’s willing to be your walking buddy, then why not find a new partner or a small group to walk with? Meetup.com is a great website for finding out about local walking and fitness events (many of which are still operating in small socially distanced numbers). Here you can meet like-minded people, and join a fitness community. Meetup.com is free to join, and events are also free, unless an organiser decides to charge group members a fee. There is also a fee to pay if you yourself decide you want to organise an activity, or set up a group.
Joining forces with people who have similar fitness goals can help you stay motivated and look forward to walking – and during this strange and isolating time, it’s a great way to meet people and make new (socially distanced) friends, too.
8. Walk while you wait
No one enjoys waiting, but unfortunately it’s something that we just can’t avoid. The good news is that you can use waiting time to boost your fitness and get some more steps in! If you’re waiting for a bus and it’s ten minutes away, then rather than sitting and waiting, why not go for a walk around the block instead? If you’re waiting for an appointment, ask how long the wait will be; if you don’t have time to go for a walk outside, walk around the building, or even pace in the waiting room.
9. Walk after a meal
Getting into the habit of taking a post-meal walk has several powerful health benefits, and is an easy way to boost your step count – especially if you take a walk after every meal. Science tells us that walking after eating can improve digestion, help manage blood sugar levels, reduce the risk of heart disease, regulate blood pressure and promote weight loss. It doesn’t have to be a long walk – just 15 minutes is effective.
10. Meet a friend for a walk
Post-lockdown, if you’re single, then why not get into the habit of walking with friends, instead of meeting for coffee or lunch? It’s much easier to talk to someone and connect when you’re walking, than while chatting in a crowded coffee shop, or a noisy restaurant – plus, you’ll be saving some money as well as boosting your step count. You might also want to consider getting into power walking, which is a great activity to do with a friend: check out our introductory article to find out more.
11. Consider getting a dog
If you love animals and are willing to commit to having a pet, you might want to think about getting a dog. Dogs need to be walked, rain or shine, so if you want to make yourself get out of the house, this is a great way to do so. Giving a loving home to a dog who needs one is a wonderful thing to do, and there are many ways people benefit from having a pet, too – whether it’s helpful in alleviating loneliness, or adding purpose and meaning to your life.
Check out your local animal shelter or dog rescue websites to see if there are any dogs you can take in: you can find your nearest Dogs Trust rehoming centres here, and find animals needing homes on the RSPCA website here. Alternatively, you can find out more about rehoming a dog on the Battersea Dogs Home site. However, before you decide to pursue this option, it’s important to make sure that you’re ready for the commitment that having a dog entails.
If you already have a dog, why not up your step count by walking them more? If you usually take your dog for a daily walk, you could make it a habit to walk them twice. Your dog will love the extra time outside and your body will thank you for it! Alternatively, you could always offer to walk a friend or neighbour’s dog.
12. Take the stairs
If you want to move more, then you could make it a habit to avoid escalators and lifts and always take the stairs, whether you’re at work, at a train station, or in a shopping centre. Taking the stairs multiple times a day can increase the number of steps you tally up far more than you might think – and if you do wear a fitness tracker, you’ll often get points for both steps and climbing. Plus, climbing stairs is one of the best exercises when it comes to burning fat and strengthening and toning your muscles. It’s also great for your lungs and heart, and can give you an energy boost.
13. Get off a stop early
If you use public transport, then you could try to get into the habit of getting off the bus or train a stop early and walking the rest of the way.
Alternatively, if you don’t use public transport, you can do the same in a taxi or uber – plus, you’ll also save yourself some pennies in the process. And who knows, you might discover a new corner of your neighbourhood, or an exciting new shop along the way.
14. Take a moving break
Making it a habit to get moving during your lunch break is a great way to get your steps in while at work – plus, you might find you’re more focused when you return.
If you usually head out to buy lunch, try walking to a different area and checking out some of the shops or takeaways that are further away – or, if you eat at work, you could go for a walk around the block once you’ve finished.
15. Go on a walking date
Getting in the habit of going for a daily walk with your partner is a wonderfully romantic way to reconnect while enjoying some gentle exercise. There’s something lovely about taking a sunset stroll together and appreciating some of the small things you might otherwise miss, like the changing colours of trees, or the first frost on leaves.
16. Take the longer route
Deciding to always take the longer route (weather permitting) is another good way to boost your step count – sometimes by a lot. Whether you’re doing some errands or visiting a friend, try taking the scenic route rather than going directly there. This can apply to much shorter trips too – for example, if you’re at work or at a shopping centre and need to go to the toilet, don’t go to the nearest one; go to one on a different floor – and take the steps, not the lift or escalators!
17. Consider investing in a treadmill desk
More of us than ever are working from home these days, and this is one trend that’s here to stay. If you have a sedentary job, then why not consider getting a treadmill desk? While these can be pricey, if you think you’ll be working from home long-term you could see it as an investment in your health.
Walking while you’re typing might take a bit of getting used to, but it’s an easy way to get more steps in and burn calories while you work. Plus, because exercise boosts the production of the neurochemicals that improve memory and thinking abilities, you might find your performance improves too!
You can either buy a standing desk and then choose a treadmill to go beneath it, or you can buy an all-in-one treadmill desk. You can read about some different types of treadmill desks here, and if you’re looking to buy one, you can do this on Amazon or on the Treadmill Desk Store website.
With a little creativity, it can become easy to incorporate more walking into your daily routine. Often it’s the smallest changes that make the biggest difference – because combined, you could see your step count soar.
As you begin walking more, you might be surprised at how much it boosts your mood, and changes your outlook on life. Many of the best ideas come to us while we’re on the move, and it’s a great way to feel calmer and more centred. And the good news is, that you can have plenty of fun while you walk.
Do you have any tips for increasing your daily step count – or are you keen to try any of these ideas? We’d love to hear about your daily walking experiences. Leave us a comment below or join the conversation over on the community forum.