To Your Health: How many steps are you taking a day?

For many of us, weekdays involve lots of sitting.  We sit in traffic. We sit at work. We sit at home.

The average American takes about 5,000 steps a day (which equates to about 2 1/2 miles), just a hair above what experts deem sedentary. Compare that to Switzerland, where the average adult takes upwards of 9,000 steps a day.

So how many steps should you be taking a day?

Liliha 13Your weight, age and current physical activity level all play a role in how much exercise you should be getting — and what amount of exercise is safe for you.

But generally, experts say 10,000 steps a day is both a robust and a realistic goal. While the figure is arbitrary, studies have shown that people who take at least 10,000 steps a day see health benefits, including lower rates of heart disease.

The job of increasing your daily step count begins with tracking your normal activity levels with a pedometer. Once you know how much you typically move throughout the day, you can set goals to move more.

If you’re averaging well under 10,000 steps, consider making incremental increases that will be easier to achieve. For example, if you take about 5,000 steps a day, commit to reaching 7,000 steps a day for at least a week.

How will you get those extra steps?

You could pack them all into one long walk. Or, you could add steps throughout your day — take the stairs, enjoy a short walk at lunch, park in the far corner of the parking lot. All those steps will contribute to your goal.

Looking for other ways to boost your steps count?

Form a walking group at your workplace and commit to taking at least three lunch walks every week. You could also walk during your breaks. Not a fan of getting hot in your dress clothes? Map out a walking route in the building — and encourage others to join you as you make your way along the path.

Set up an alarm at your desk to remind you to get up from your desk at least every hour. Take a few minutes to walk to the farthest drinking fountain or get in some steps by walking up a few flights of stairs and back down again.

Challenge your family and friends to track their steps, and make progress right along with you. Their support will help you get motivated to reach your goals. And you’ll be doing the same for them.

Rather than sitting in front of the television or computer at night, walk in place. Or, take a walk during the commercial breaks. Better yet, why not watch TV while walking leisurely on your treadmill?

 • Get in extra steps whenever you can. For example, rather than sitting at the doctor’s office, stroll around the waiting room or in the hallway. Early for an appointment? Take a stroll until it’s time to begin. 

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