If you’re not a regular exerciser, or feel intimidated stepping into the gym, upping your daily steps is a good strategy to ease yourself into exercise. After all, walking is a low-impact activity, meaning it’ll lead to less wear and tear on your muscles and joints. It’s also easy and affordable. All you have to do is lace up in a pair of comfortable sneakers and put one foot in front of the other!
Experts recommend we get about 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous exercise each week. In case you’re wondering, brisk walking absolutely counts as exercise.
Need more reasons to increase your steps? Here are three of our favorites:
1. Walking burns calories. For those with a weight-loss goal, walking can help you cut a sizable number of calories throughout the day. For example a 150-pound person walking about 3.5 miles per hour on flat ground can burn about 300 calories an hour. That’s the number of calories in a McDonald’s cheeseburger.
2. Walking gets you energized. Walking helps your muscles use the “fuel” from food more efficiently. Ever heard of the term blood glucose (aka blood sugar) and wondered why there’s sugar swimming around in your blood? That sugar comes from the food you eat and it’s traveling in your blood to get to the cells that need it most. Unfortunately, that sugar cannot get into your cells without a key. One such key is insulin, a hormone that is released when your blood sugar levels are high. Insulin helps your cells absorb and use that sugar for energy.
If you’re someone who is insulin resistant, your cells may not respond effectively to insulin. Thankfully, there is another key: exercise. Exercise, including walking, helps your muscle cells take in glucose from the blood to use as fuel. This is why you may feel more energetic after a brisk stroll. This process may help healthy individuals as well as those with insulin resistance or Type 2 diabetes.
HEALTH TIP: How do you find out if you’re insulin resistant? You’ll need to visit your healthcare provider who can test your fasting blood glucose or hemoglobin A1c. Once you have your results, you can use Zipongo to keep track of your progress.
3. Walking makes you stronger. You can feel that walking works out the quads, glutes and hamstrings in your legs. Walking helps you develop stronger leg muscles, which is important because you either use those muscles or lose them! We hate to break it to you, but aging will lead you to progressively lose muscle unless you do something about it. In addition to building and preserving leg muscles, walking strengthens your heart and lungs, too. It’s a cardio exercise that helps you build endurance. Eventually you’ll be able to work out longer and harder if you keep going.
Three Steps to Building Up to 10,000 Steps Daily
Don’t worry, we won’t throw you out there without a game plan. A goal to walk more is great, but not specific enough. We recommend you set a goal of 10,000 steps daily, which has been shown to be helpful for weight loss in adults. A study of 56 overweight adults found that those who complied with their 10,000 daily steps goal saw meaningful, positive changes to their weight, body mass index, body fat percentage and waist circumference.
Even if you’re nowhere near this goal, aim for it with our three-step plan.
Step 1: Check your daily steps average. Use a Fitbit, iPhone or other activity tracker. Even an inexpensive pedometer will work just fine. Without doing anything extra, just track your steps for three to four days and take the average. This will be your starting point.
Step 2: Increase your daily steps goal gradually. Take your starting point from step 1 and add on 250-500 steps each day until you reach 10,000 steps. Remember, you’re shooting for an average of 10,000 steps daily. It’s okay to do more steps on some days and fewer on others. The key is to reach 70,000 steps at the end of seven days. This means you will have averaged 10,000 steps daily!
Step 3: Remind yourself to hit your daily steps goal. You can set an email, calendar or phone reminder. You can even add it to your to-do list. Pick the strategy that works best for you.
Beyond the 10,000 Steps Mark
If you already take 10,000+ steps daily, congratulations! Of course, it doesn’t end once you hit your steps goal. Complement your good walk work by adding other exercises during the week. Different types of activities will help you strengthen different muscles. Challenge yourself by building up to a run or taking fitness classes such as yoga, pilates, barre or cycling. You may even discover a new activity you love and find fresh motivation while advancing towards your weight or fitness goals.