One of the single best things you can do for your health is to get regular physical activity—and that doesn't have to mean hitting the gym for an all-out sweat session. Simply walking can completely transform your well-being if set your step goal high, at around 10,000 steps a day.
In fact, according to a joint 2020 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Cancer Institute (NCI), and National Institute on Aging (NIA), having a higher step count can quite literally save your life.
"Compared with taking 4,000 steps per day, a number considered to be low for adults, taking 8,000 steps per day was associated with a 51 percent lower risk for all-cause mortality (or death from all causes)," the CDC writes. "Taking 12,000 steps per day was associated with a 65 percent lower risk compared with taking 4,000 steps," suggesting that the more steps you take, the greater the health benefits.
So how can you ensure that you reach your 10,000-step goal? We reached out to fitness experts for their best tips on getting started. Read on to learn what they say are the nine easiest ways to hit 10,000 steps a day, for better health starting today.
READ THIS NEXT: If You Notice This While Walking, It May Be an Early Sign of MS.
Schedule your walks ahead of time.
For many people, the biggest roadblock to walking more often is simply finding the time. That's why it can be hugely helpful to schedule your steps in advance, says Rose McNulty,a NASM-certified personal trainer and NASM-certified nutrition coach. By budgeting your steps throughout the day, you're more likely to set yourself up for success, she adds.
"For an average person, 10,000 steps is about five miles, and a typical pace is about three miles per hour," McNulty explains. "Even if you didn't take many steps throughout the rest of the day, this means you'd be more than halfway to 10,000 in about an hour. Pick up the pace a bit, and you could walk a full five miles in less than one and a half hours."
Starting small and building toward your goal can also help you succeed. "A schedule that's feasible to stick to is crucial for staying on track," McNulty tells Best Life.
READ THIS NEXT: 8 Retail Brands That Sell the Best Quality Walking Shoes.
Hit the treadmill for some cardio.
Sometimes a concentrated workout can be just what you need to reach your optimal step count sooner. It can also take the pressure off the rest of the day if your schedule is already packed.
"If you have trouble hitting that 10,000-step goal with your daily work or errands, try incorporating jogging or running as cardio," suggests McNulty. "Both of these activities will help you hit your step goal quicker than walking, so this is a good option for those with sedentary jobs who don't have much time outside of work."
Find a walking buddy.
Turning your walk into a social activity may make you more likely to stick to—and even look forward to—your routine. Alex Stone, DPT, CSCS, a Doctor of Physical Therapy and Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, recommends taking post-dinner strolls with your loved ones.
"This promotes bonding while also helping everyone stay active and achieve their step goals," he tells Best Life. If you plan to take your walks solo, even phoning a friend while walking can enhance the experience.
Start early in the day.
Stone says getting your steps in early can make you more likely to reach your daily goal by the end of the day. That's why it's a great idea to kickstart each morning with a stroll soon after waking up. "This not only helps to boost your metabolism and energy levels but also puts you on the path to accomplishing your daily step goal early on," he says.
Not motivated to get up and out first thing in the morning? Try making your morning walks more interesting by exploring different routes and scenic locations, Stone suggests. "This will make your daily walks more enjoyable and easier to maintain as a habit."
Take advantage of your work breaks.
Sitting all day can be uniquely hazardous to your health. In fact, according to the World Health Organization, being sedentary is a leading cause of death and disability worldwide. If you work a sedentary job, this simply means you'll have to be extra intentional about getting up for regular movement breaks. Plan on taking a short walk every hour or so to counteract the effects of sitting for long periods of time.
"Use your lunch break or shorter breaks throughout the day to take quick walks around your office building or a nearby park," advises Stone. "This not only contributes to your step count but also helps to refresh your mind and reduce work-related stress." If you often forget to take breaks from your work, use your smartphone or fitness tracker to set reminders. "This will encourage you to stay consistent and prevent long periods of inactivity," he says.
Park farther away from your destination.
If you live in an area where driving is central to life, you may find it difficult to build in walks. However, you can add steps to your routine by parking farther away from your destination whenever possible. If you need to run multiple errands in a walkable area, plan on parking centrally and walking from one errand to the next, rather than driving between places.
"This simple strategy forces you to walk more and increases your daily step count without much thought," says Stone.
For more health news sent directly to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.
Take the stairs.
Not all steps are created equal—some are extra effective at building muscle strength and cardiovascular endurance. When you're climbing a flight of stairs, for example, you stand to gain more health benefits per step than you do walking down the street. "Whenever possible, opt for the stairs instead of elevators or escalators," Stone recommends.
Wear a pedometer or fitness tracker.
Tracking your steps with the help of a pedometer or fitness tracker can help ensure you reach your 10,000 step goal by making your progress more tangible. "Fitbits and other wearable devices make this super easy and fun," says Mary Sabat, MS, RDN, LD, a nutritionist and Ace Certified Trainer. "They provide a visual representation of your progress and motivate you to reach your daily goal," she adds.
Tracking can also help you budget your steps throughout the day, so that they're spread out into multiple, more manageable sessions. For example, by aiming for four half-hour long walks throughout the day, you should be able to hit your 10,000 step goal without any major interruptions to your day.
Be accountable to others.
Wearing a fitness tracker can help you stay accountable to yourself, but you can take that feeling of accountability a step further by sharing your progress with a friend.
"Even if you don't live near anyone who wants to walk or exercise with you, there are plenty of smartphone apps that make a game out of stepping and let you share your progress with friends," says McNulty. "Try downloading one and enlisting some friends to challenge themselves with you, and hold each other accountable each day," she suggests.
Best Life offers the most up-to-date information from top experts, new research, and health agencies, but our content is not meant to be a substitute for professional guidance. When it comes to the medication you're taking or any other health questions you have, always consult your healthcare provider directly.