Those of you who know me, know that I love getting my step target in almost every day. In fact, I will march behind the couch for twenty minutes while watching TV at night if I’m behind my target, which is actually above 10,000 steps a day. This is why you may be surprised to see me state that walking ten thousand steps daily, shouldn’t be a goal for most people.

Believe it or not, the concept of walking ten thousand steps a day isn’t derived from science, it’s actually a marketing gimmick. One of the first pedometres was created in the 1960s by a Japanese company. Because the Japanese character for “10,000” resembles a person walking, the company called its walking tool the “10,000-step meter”. This is where the popularity over walking ten thousand steps a day came from.

Steps are valuable. But there’s nothing special about 10,000. Your daily step count goal depends on various factors including your current overall health and activity levels, fitness goals and lifestyle.

What Should be Considered When Building a Step Goal

Increasing physical activity is crucial for so many physical and mental health benefits. These include, but are not limited to: reducing body fat and increasing muscle, improving cardiovascular health and endurance, along with energy levels, reducing stress and the risk of injury by building strength and balance and renewing confidence and self-esteem.

Walking is an important part of achieving these benefits. It is a simple and accessible way to incorporate more movement into almost anyone’s day. When building your step goal, it’s important to think about two things.

1. Realistic individualization.

While 10,000 steps is a commonly recommended goal, it may not be suitable or necessary for everyone. Some individuals may find it challenging or unnecessary to walk this much every day, especially those who engage in other forms of exercise or who have physical limitations.

Building your step goal based on individualized needs and abilities is key. Factors such as fitness level, health status, occupation, age and lifestyle should be considered when setting step counts. While walking is an excellent form of exercise, incorporating a variety of physical activities into your routine can provide additional benefits and prevent boredom or burnout.

2. Continuous and incremental progression.

It’s important to increase your activity in a realistic way, that’s manageable for your long-term lifestyle. If you are walking two thousand steps daily like many Canadians, it makes very little sense to set an immediate goal of ten thousand steps each day. This type of goal setting sets you up for failure, especially if you have an ‘All or Nothing‘ attitude like so many people do.

Start by setting achievable goals for yourself. Aim to increase your step count gradually over time, rather than trying to reach a high target immediately. I’ve seen that setting achievable goals and gradually building up activity levels leads to longer term success. Remember to listen to your body and gradually increase your activity levels to avoid injury.

So if you have already set your step goal up, how can you successfully increase it over time?

3 Ways to Increase Your Activity and Steps

1. Make Your Activities Fun and Simple.

Find activities that you enjoy and that fit into your current lifestyle. Mix up your routine by trying different activities that get you moving your body more. This could include dancing, hiking, gardening, or playing recreational sports. If you like gaming, many of the virtual reality games get you up and moving.

If these ideas don’t excite you, try joining a walking group or participating in a step challenge with friends, family, or coworkers to provide motivation and accountability. The bottom line is, if you like what you’re doing, you’re more likely to stick with it for the long term.

2. Use a Fitness Tracker.

Wear a pedometer or use a fitness tracker to monitor your daily steps. These trackers are a great way to hold you accountable to your daily activity over the long-term. Try achieving your daily step goal for at least 6 out of 7 days (remember the 80 / 20 rule?). Consistency is key when it comes to increasing your activity levels.

Seeing progress through these trackers often motivates you to increase your activity levels. Once you’re able to meet a current goal over the long-term, you’ll have more confidence to slowly but assuredly increase it. When it comes to your healthy habits, tracking your progress is vital to making changes.

3. Schedule Regular Activities.

Meetings and appointments aren’t attended spontaneously, they are scheduled. Use the same thought process for your movement, schedule it!  

For workouts, I find it’s best to set up your fitness schedule at least one week ahead. Map out the days and times you will work out, for how long, and which body parts you will focus on during each session. I find it easiest to build my fitness schedule right into my Outlook calendar, but tracking it on a paper calendar can be just as effective.

Aim to be active throughout the whole day, even if it’s just for short periods of time. If you’re having trouble remembering to move regularly, set your phone alarm to go off hourly. When you hear the beeping, get up move for a couple of minutes. I love turning on my favourite song and dancing around!

Tools like alarms and fitness calendars, are necessary for success when it comes to forming movement habits. They put your routine on autopilot, so there’s nothing to think about or decide on. If you’re looking for more fitness ideas, reach out.

To Sum it up…Walking 10,000 Steps Isn’t for Everyone

Being constantly active throughout the entire day is important. However, walking 10,000 steps is not a one-size-fits-all recommendation. Your step goal should be realistic and individualized for you.

A daily step count goal should depend on a variety of factors including your current overall health and activity levels, fitness goals and lifestyle. It’s great if your goal can be continuously achieved and incrementally progressed.

To remain active over the long term, it’s key that the movement activities you select are fun and achievable in your existing lifestyle. Using a fitness tracker helps increase goal accountability over the long-term. I have found tools like alarms and fitness calendars are necessary for success when it comes to forming long term movement habits. They put your routine on autopilot, so there’s nothing to think about or decide on.

I hope these tips get you moving more, since “motion is lotion” for your body. If you need help getting started with your movement goals, please reach out.