If your motivation is fading, a pedometer just might do the trick! Who would have thought that something smaller than a deck of cards and cheaper than a pair of sneakers could make all the difference when it comes to getting yourself to walk more? A pedometer works by sensing your body motion and couting your steps, then it converts that number into distance based on the length of your stride. A pedometer is a great way to keep track of the steps you take every day and to monitor your progress. You should aim for a goal of 50,000 steps a week.
“We have found inexpensive, electronic step-counters to be a fabulous tool for motivating people to increase physical activity,” says James O. Hill, Ph.D., director of the Center for Human Nutrition at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver. The Center is working to get people throughout the entire state of Colorado to track their steps as they walk their way to fitness.
While pedometers have just begun to take off in the United States, they’ve been popular in Japan for more than 30 years, and the average Japanese family owns 3.2 of them. Pedometers make physical activity fun, and they tap into our competitive streak by enabling us to compete against ourselves or others. On average, sedentary people take only 2,000 to 3,000 steps a day. But studies find that taking 6,000 steps a day significantly reduces the risk of death. Adding 2,000 steps, or about 1 mile a day, will help you maintain your current weight and stop gaining weight. That takes only about 15 to 20 minutes, which you can spread over the course of your day.
Your goal should be to walk for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week and also to look for other opportunities during the day to be active so you can log 50,000 steps on most days by the end of the 12 weeks. Keep your pedometer on all day to encourage yourself to walk when you might otherwise drive or sit still. If you take an hour-long walk, you’re almost there. Here are some ideas to get those pedometer numbers moving:
- Park as far as possible from entrances at work, shopping centers, or restaurants.
- If you take the bus, get off a stop or two early and hoof it the rest of the way.
- Pace instead of standing while talking on the phone or waiting for the elevator.
- Take the stairs rather than the elevator.
- Hide the remote and use commercials as your signal to get up and walk up and down the stairs or circle your house until the program comes back on.
- Return the shopping cart all the way into the store.
- Get a dog and do not fence your yard. You’ll have no choice but to walk Rover at least three times a day. (Rover will love you for it.)
- Can’t get a dog? Volunteer to walk a neighbor’s pooch or the dogs at your local animal shelter.
- Get up and talk to your coworkers instead of e-mailing them.
- Use the rest room, copy machine, or water fountain farthest from your work area.
- Find a walking buddy. Studies show that people are more likely to stick with an exercise program if they’re doing it with someone. Invite a neighbor, relative, or coworker to hit the ground walking.
- Get a freezer or refrigerator for the garage or basement and keep some staples there. It forces you to walk back and forth several times a day.
With these walking basics you’ll be counting to 50,000 in no time!