5 simple strategies to help you do more steps each day

We all know that sitting for prolonged periods of time is not good for our overall health. 

Whether its increasing our chances of developing long term health conditions, worsening our posture & putting us at a higher risk for muscular aches & pains, or lowering the amount of energy we burn each day, making it more difficult to manage our weight- the consequences of being inactive are far too serious to ignore. 

Aiming to sit less & move more can be one of the best things you can do to improve your health & fitness. 

Step counters (electronic devices that record how many steps you take), although victim to a degree of inaccuracy are one of the best ways we have of monitoring our daily level of movement. Otherwise we’re relying solely on how active we think we’ve been. 

-it can be quite a shock when you first get a step counter to see just how active you actually are in comparison to how active you thought you were-

Below are 5 suggestions on how to increase your activity levels & achieve a higher daily step count. 

(1) Use the information you have

Step counters are something I encourage most of my clients to use & I’m often pleasantly surprised at just how many of them already have a fitbit or activity watch that tracks their steps.

When I pose the question early on in their assessment however “how many steps do you usually do a day?”, or ”how many steps do you try & aim for?” very few of them have an accurate answer. They have no specific target for themselves, only occasionally look at how many steps they’ve done & it’s very rare they know their actual daily average. 

If you have a step counter, then use it. Simply wearing it is not enough to get you more active. Try tracking your steps for a week, adding them all up & dividing by 7 to get your daily average. Try to then increase this by setting a target of perhaps 10-20% more the following week. This method of goal setting is much more specific to you & can be a lot less daunting than trying to go from 3,000 to 10,000 a day in one go. 

By having a clear weekly target, it will help focus your mind & keep you accountable. It also brings with it a real sense of accomplishment when you achieve the target you’ve set. I’ve found some of my clients have done particularly well when they’ve organised a bit of a competition with family members or work colleagues to see who can do the most in a week or month. Make it competitive & a bit of fun! 

(2) Sacrifice a little sleep

For some, trying to set aside time to go for a walk can be extremely difficult. Commitments at home, commuting, work schedule or caring for family are often non negotiable. This is when I would encourage you to look closely at the times of your day that things are a little calmer. For a lot of people, this is early morning. Work hasn’t yet started or if you have a partner, perhaps this is when you’re both at home & so can share caring duties. 

-now this decision will heavily depend on how much sleep you currently get & how much you personally need to function & perform well- 

but would getting up 15-30 minutes earlier make that much difference to your day? Or (in the case of several people I’ve worked with) would getting up a little earlier & doing something active actually make you feel more positive & energised for the day ahead? 

If you really struggle finding the time to be more active, then I would ask yourself these questions & consider the positive impact getting up a bit earlier to go for a power walk could have on your health. 

(3) Choose your parking space more wisely

Increasing your activity levels doesn’t need to be in the form of a dedicated power walk or run. Just because you didn’t walk for 15 minutes solid, doesn’t mean those steps didn’t count. Taking an extra 50-100 steps here & there, over the course of an 16 hour day is enough to make a real difference. 

A strategy I really like (particularly if you’re someone that spends their day constantly nipping out- doing the school run, going to the shops, running errands etc) is to make a conscious effort to park further away from the entrances to buildings. By doing this you force yourself to take an extra few hundred steps whilst still getting everything done you needed to. You’re just adding an extra minute or two to each journey you make. 

(4) Use your breaks more productively

How long does it take you to eat lunch? Really? 

Do you need the full 30 or 60 minute break you get each day at work to eat that sandwich or soup? 

Or do you usually finish eating in 10 minutes & then either spend the rest of the time scrolling through your phone or maybe even carrying on with more work? 

It’s really common for those who have desk based jobs, to eat at their desk & not take a proper break. If you’ve been sat down working for 5 hours, the last thing you need is to continue sitting throughout your lunch break. It’s a mental break you need, not a physical one. 

Try being strict with yourself & aim to dedicate a proportion of the time to getting outside & moving. 

(5) Learn to work/study on the go

A lot of my clients, especially those who work from home or in an office environment often complain that it’s the nature of their work that prevents them from being able to move more. Being “tied to your desk” although a fairly legitimate reason for a lower level of activity, doesn’t mean there aren’t things you can still do to improve your situation. 

I worked with someone recently who is based at home for work & spends most of their day at a desk. Upon closer inspection however, we realised that a large proportion of their day is spent on the phone- with conversations often lasting up to an hour. 

After a brief discussion, they realised there’s no real reason some of these phone calls couldn’t be carried out while they went for a walk. Obviously if the nature of the call meant they needed to be in front of their computer then this wouldn’t be possible. But for other calls, where there wasn’t the immediate need to access information online they started doing them while going for a local 20-30 minute walk (or even pacing up & down the corridor)

So ask yourself, are there any routine tasks or phone calls that could be completed ‘on the go’? & If so, clump them together & multitask by doing them while out for a walk in the fresh air.

(the same goes for if you’re studying- try perhaps downloading a podcast on your subject of choice & use your walking time more productively!)

Hopefully this has given you some practical ideas of how best to increase your activity levels, but please do GET IN TOUCH if you feel you need more support in getting active & we’ll chat about how I can help. 

October 29, 2020

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