The question: I keep on hearing that I need to walk 10,000 steps per day. Does it matter how I get to 10,000?
The answer: It does not.
That is exactly why I am such a fan of making 10,000 steps per day a goal, as the whole purpose is to make daily movement accessible and realistic. The point isn't to get your steps by doing a tediously long workout on the treadmill. In fact, it is almost the opposite. The goal is to weave small amounts of movement into your daily life so that moving becomes a habit.
We all sit way too much, but trying to adopt a healthier lifestyle can feel overwhelming and expensive. Accumulating steps gradually throughout the day can feel less daunting. Plus, walking is accessible and free, so anyone who's able and healthy can do it. I get my clients to do a "test" day, where they track their steps without consciously changing their patterns. Usually they only track 2-3,000 steps in the day, which is not ideal for their cardiovascular or muscular systems.
Test yourself and see how you do. The good news is that it is fairly easy to increase your step count. Small changes add up quickly: Walk to work, play sports with your kids, walk at lunch, take the stairs, walk and talk to colleagues at work instead of e-mailing.
Now for the possible bad news: Yes, you can accumulate your steps gradually throughout the day, but I still suggest you do a few more intense cardio workouts per week. Your heart is a muscle and it needs to be challenged. Ideally, you want to get 10,000 steps daily and do two weekly cardio workouts.
It goes both ways, actually. Doing a few cardio workouts at the gym doesn't rationalize sitting for 14 hours a day, and getting up from your desk regularly and walking doesn't replace those workouts either.
Trainer's tip: Try framing your steps as non-negotiable. Don't ask yourself if you will get your steps in, but rather when you will get them in. When you get to the end of the day and you haven't accumulated enough steps, put your coat on and go for a walk – or dance around your living room!
Kathleen Trotter has been a personal trainer and Pilates equipment specialist for over 10 years. Her website is kathleentrotter.com.