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Do It Yourself Guide: Take 10,000 Steps a Day

Florida Department of Health in Nassau County Community Health Education

Time is the enemy. You know you're never going to make it to the gym at lunch and that early morning run doesn't seem to be in your future. Stop torturing yourself. Try turning "exercise" into "activity".

That's the latest thinking from health experts, who would still like you to get moving, but now recommend doing so in the most manageable way possible. The idea is to clip on a pedometer and start with that first step of your normal day. Within three weeks, you may be able to work up to 10,000 steps a day, roughly equivalent to the goal of 30 minutes of daily physical activity recommended by the U.S. surgeon general. Since Americans already average 3,000 to 5,000 steps during a routine day, it is relatively painless boost to that extra 5,000.

Here's a literal step-by-step primer, taken from a guide written by Mark host of PBS "American's Walking" and physical activity program manager at the University of North Carolina's Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center:

Week 1 goal: Measure steps in a typical week without any attempt to walk more than normal. Set the pedometer to steps. Each morning, reset the pedometer to steps and set at "0"; Ignore distance & calorie counts. Wear it all day! At night, remove it and record the number of steps taken in a log, noting any additional activities that you may have done, also note fewer steps activities such as meetings, trainings, etc.

Week 2 goal: Boost the average daily steps by 20 percent. Add the total steps taken in Week One, divide by seven, then multiply by 1.2. The result is the new target number for daily steps. Most physical activity counts, including formal workouts (a brisk walk, using most exercise machines) and informal exercise (taking the stairs instead of the elevator, etc).

Week 3 goal: If you haven't reached 10,000 steps, or if the goal in substantial weight loss for which many experts recommend 12,000 to 15,000 steps a day then boost steps again by 20 percent. Calculate the second week's daily average and multiply for 1.2. If aerobic fitness is a goal, try boosting the speed of at least 2,000 to 4,000 of the steps already being done.

Want to get in more steps during the course of the day? Here are some tips:

  • Conditions permitting, park in the farthest space from your destination.

  • Take a walking break instead of a coffee break at work.

  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator.

  • Walk the dog instead of just letting it out in the yard.

  • Get off the train or subway a stop early.

  • Don't use the care for short trips; walk instead.

  • Hide the remote and get up to change the channel.

  • Walk your child to school.

For more information on:

The 20 Percent Boost Approach

The University of North Carolina's Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center

For more on pedometers:

New Lifestyles - 888-748-5377

Optimal Health Products - 888-339-2067

Accusplit - 800-935-1996