Posted on June 30, 2023 by Emily Forbes

A couple of weeks ago I set a challenge to walk 10,000 steps a day. It was only for 5 days, starting with 2000 and adding 2000 every day. As a personal trainer it seems easy to just remind my clients about getting their steps in, but the actual reality of trying to get them in when you work a desk job and have kids is another thing. Not having a desk job I don’t usually need to think or actively try to get my steps in, so I experimented to see what it would actually take. My plan was to try and simulate a “normal” working day, but that was actually impossible with my variable hours and just did my best with my free time. Here’s how it went.

Day 1: The first week I planned to do this challenge I got a stomach bug so being still was the most beneficial for me and few steps were taken over the week. Sometimes, life throws us a curveball. Be kind to yourself and pick up when you can.

Day 1, take 2: Getting 2000 steps was easy. I have come to learn that 1000 steps for me is around 8.5mins. On this day I walked around the block at work, which was 2 loops to hit the 2000. I’ve learnt what would give me my 2000 steps without thinking about it now – a loop around the park near my house, a walk up to the shop and back, or a couple of loops around the block. The best thing is that it was easy to add in my day and didn’t have a big time impact.

Day 2: My intention was to do the loop around the park in the morning or walk round the valley which a longer walk before work, but I had forgot I was doing the challenge to be honest. This meant I was cramming the steps in later in my day. This was difficult because I didn’t actually have the time then. I walked up to the shops and looped around the block = 3000 steps. I then had to walk to a job which I included as my extra 1000 steps. I made sure I got them done as I had made myself accountable by setting the challenge online.

Day 3: I was going to walk in the morning, but still overcoming the effects of the bug was not up for it. I did have time in the afternoon which meant a nice sunny walk along the canal and back which was just under and hour. Much easier to do in summer.

Day 4: I got up early and did a big walk around the valley near my house for 60mins and then did an evening walk around the park to get the extra steps in. Bearing in mind that this is all on top of my usual steps so ended up being 18,000 steps in total. I was starting to feel a bit tired from the extra walking. The summer months obviously make it soooo much easier to get the steps in early and late.

Day 5: The big finale. I actually had a quiet day at work and the weather was lush. I took myself to Meanwood Park and did one of my favourite walks which I know would get me all my steps. Total time walking about 1hr 40min.

This is what I learnt and here are some of my take-home messages:

  • Start small. Jumping from 1000 to 10,000 steps will feel like a near impossible task and leave you feeling dis-empowered. Try adding in just 2000 steps a day and get that habit established first.
  • Learn how many minutes it takes you to walk 1000 steps then it will be easier for you to plan how long you need to meet a step count. Get to know what routes and loops will give you 1000/2000 steps.
  • Get accountable. Telling your friends/spouse/kids/social media, whatever it will take, but get it said out loud. Kids are usually pretty good at challenging you if you say that is what you’re going to do.
  • Plan it in. As said above, knowing how long and what routes are x amount of steps will make it easier to plan in your day.
  • Getting in the habit whilst it’s summer will make it much easier than starting in winter. But you might also want to find routes which you feel safe doing in the dark.
  • Little and often.
  • Finding ways to create those additions of steps without them impacting your day too much. Walking the kids to school, to the shops, parking further away, getting off the bus a stop early, using the toilet on a different floor – using the stairs obviously, looping around the block, take walking meetings/phone calls, set up a walking group with work colleagues/friends, drink lots water so you have to get up more often, walk over to colleagues desks to communicate rather than pinging emails, play with your kids, get a dog, get a desk treadmill, up the dishes away 1 item at a time, set break reminders to get up from your desk every hour to move, get a fitness tracker to keep you motivated.
  • Lean into the resistance of getting started, knowing you’ll feel better for doing it.
  • As you build up more steps in the week, it might still be hard to hit 10,000. Perhaps, accept that as good enough and try get additional steps in at the weekend when you have more time. Getting out in nature is also a big nervous system regulating, immune boosting, stress buster!

Happy walking for health and longevity!