If you’re a walker, you probably know all about the advantages of reaching 10,000 steps per day. Working towards a goal is a great motivator, but how do you stay motivated to get more active and healthier once you’ve reached your goal?
You don’t have to stop working to get more active when you hit 10,000 (or any step goal)? It’s true that you can simply walk more, but if you have limited time, physical difficulties or you’re simply seeking a new challenge you may need to set a different goal for yourself. The right goal helps you continue to improve your fitness, lose weight and avoid hitting a plateau. If you’ve hit your goal (or if you’re getting closer), here’s what to do next!
Get More Steps
Reaching 10,000 steps a day is a great goal, but you don’t have to stop there. It may seem obvious, but you can simply set a higher goal and work to get even more steps. You can do this either by spending more time walking, increasing your walking speed (or jogging) or both! How you decide to get more steps depends a lot on your fitness level, physical limitations (if any), and the amount of time you have.
Try setting intermediate goals, like working your way up to 2,000 more steps a day. If you don’t have physical limitations and you have the time available, there’s no reason not to target 15,000 steps or more!
Spend More Time Walking
You don’t necessarily have to walk faster or jog to get more steps every day – you can simply spend more time walking. Increasing your walking time by a few minutes every day is perfect for people with physical limitations, or who simply don’t like jogging or high-intensity exercise. Keep in mind that adding more steps becomes harder as your step total increases. Make sure to pay attention to how you feel, and don’t push yourself too hard if you feel fatigued or sore. Here are some ideas to try:
- Take a longer walk. The CDC-recommended 30 minutes of daily walking is only a minimum baseline. Longer walks can help you burn additional fat while reaching that new step goal.
- Take an evening (or morning) walk. If you’re not walking in the morning, get up a bit earlier and start your day energized with a morning walk. Alternatively, get some steps in after dinner to hit that step goal.
- Take walking breaks. If you’re stuck sitting down at work, try to take a short walk every 30-60 minutes. Walking meetings or walks during your lunch break can also help you get steps in.
- Get out of your comfort zone. Walk instead of drive when you can, and park farther away when you have to drive. Get off of public transportation a stop early and walk. Even short walks can add up and make a big difference.
Increase Your Walking Speed
You can get more steps in every day simply by walking faster than before. You don’t have to run to increase your speed – brisk walking is a great workout on its own. Make sure that you maintain good walking posture as you increase speed. This helps prevent injuries and repetitive strain injuries from poor walking form. Here are some ideas for faster walking:
- Add intervals. Alternate periods of faster, brisk walking with rest periods of normal or slower walking. This is a great way to increase your speed on average without having to walk fast the entire time. Here’s a 30-minute walking workout to start with. Interval training also is a great way to burn extra calories.
- Track your speed with GPS. Increasing your speed burns more calories and has other great health benefits, but how do you know how fast you’re walking? Use Pacer’s GPS tracking feature to follow your walk and check in on your pace.
- Plan the right route. Though you can walk almost anywhere, it’s easier to keep up a brisk pace if you can find a flat route that’s free of obstructions. Try to avoid areas with high foot traffic that can slow you down. If you’re not sure where to walk near you, Pacer’s Routes can help.
- Listen to music. Listening to energetic music can help you naturally keep up a faster pace. It also helps you keep walking longer when you might otherwise get tired or bored.
Boost Your Intensity
If you don’t have time to get more steps, or you’re happy with your 10,000 step goal, you can still make those 10,000 steps more intense. Since you’ve gained strength and endurance reaching your goal, change up your walk to challenge yourself.
You can get more intense while maintaining your walking workout. This can involve walking faster (you’ll hit your goal faster and save time), but it can also involve adding an incline, stairs or whole-body movements. You don’t necessarily need to jog or do strength training to boost your intensity. Walking is so versatile, it can be as tough or easy as you make it!
- Walk on an incline. Incline walking burns more calories and gives you a great workout. If you don’t have a hilly walking area near you, most treadmills have incline modes to add intensity.
- Add stairs. Stair walking is one of the best ways to burn calories by walking. Take the stairs instead of the elevator at work, or find an indoor location with some stairs you can add.
- Use your arms while walking. You’ve probably seen people “power walking,” but using an exaggerated arm movement can help give you a bit more of a workout. It can also help you speed up your walking pace!
- Try Nordic Walking. Nordic walking, or walking with poles, can give you a total body workout while getting your steps in.
- Carry a (light) backpack. We covered why hand or ankle weights can be a bad idea, but you can still walk with proper form carrying weight on your torso. Just don’t overdo it, as a heavy bad will impact your posture and increase your risk of injury.
- Increase your walking speed. Use the speed tips given earlier to increase your speed. Even if you can’t increase your step number, getting your steps at a faster pace will burn more calories.
- Add in jogging. Check the jogging section below for additional tips.
Jogging is higher-impact on the body than walking, but it allows you to burn more calories and get your steps in much faster. It’s not necessarily better than walking and jogging is definitely not for everyone, but it can be a great way to get an intensity boost. If you’re comfortable walking at a brisk pace of more than four miles per hour, jogging might not feel like a big change.
- Start slowly. If you’re not used to jogging, jog slowly and don’t jog for long periods of time. You’ll get tired faster than you might think, so take it easy.
- Use intervals. Start by alternating short periods of jogging with longer periods of walking. Then gradually increase the jogging intervals and decrease the walking intervals until you reach an intensity level you’re happy with.
- Find the right path. The right route becomes even more important when jogging as even light foot traffic makes jogging difficult. Look for a jogging path with a softer surface that gives your shoes more grip, has less impact on your knees and gives you a dedicated space to run without obstructions.
- Try a treadmill. Many people find it easier to jog on the treadmill than on a jogging path. Treadmills keep you at a constant speed so you won’t jog too fast and tire yourself out. Treadmills usually have more give than concrete or asphalt and may be easier on your knees as well!
- Gear up. You can get away with walking in dress shoes or sandals to some degree, but if you decide to start a jogging routine you will want to invest in running shoes. Walking shoes can work in a pinch, but there are many affordable running options available to choose from.
- Get your rest. You might not feel you’re getting more intense, but it’s a good idea to start slowly and see how your body responds to any new activity. Try alternating walking days with jogging days until you get used to the intensity.
Get Healthier Overall
Your steps are only one aspect of your overall fitness. Even if you hit 10,000 steps, there’s much more you can do to get healthier, lose weight and feel better. In many ways, eating better and being active overall can be more important than your total step count!
Walking is a great way to improve your health, but a healthy diet can also help you meet your health and weight loss goals. Since you’re likely counting how many calories you burn while walking, it makes sense to count the calories you take in as well. Eating the right foods can also give you more energy for your daily workout. Try these healthy diet tips to get started.
- Understand portion sizes. Restaurants often serve gigantic portions which could actually feed 2 or even 3 people. You can often save calories (and money) by sharing dishes, or eating half and taking half home to eat later.
- Don’t drink your calories. Avoid soda, sugary juices, and high-fat coffee drinks. Find a low or zero-calorie beverage you love or get creative and invent one yourself!
- Eat more complex carbohydrates like those found in whole grains, beans, and fruits and veggies.
- Cut back on refined sugar and processed foods.
- Add lean protein to your snacks and meals.
- Fill half of your plate with fruits and vegetables at each meal.
- Choose healthy fats like nuts, seeds, and avocados. Be aware that the serving sizes of healthy fats (like nuts) is often smaller than you think!
- Stock up on healthy snacks (like fresh fruit & vegetables), and don’t keep sugary sweets around the house.
Get Active in Other Ways
While you may use your step count to track your activity, there are plenty of other things besides walking you can do that can help you burn calories and feel great. Mixing things up can help keep your walking routine fresh. While you may not get steps counted doing yoga, tai chi or swimming, rest assured your body is counting those calories burned. Here are some great options to try:
- Yoga, tai chi or pilates can help you build strength and flexibility.
- Add in strength training to build muscle and increase your metabolism. You can try Pacer’s bodyweight workouts if you don’t have access to weights or a gym.
- Swimming is a great, low-impact activity that burns a surprising amount of calories
- Bike riding can be a fun way to get around and can be lower impact than jogging
- Play frisbee or some other fun summer activities. If you have kids or younger relatives, find something to play together. It helps get them active and away from their phone or computer and gets you active as well.
If you can’t make a decision, consider checking local classes in your area to learn something out of your comfort zone.
Reaching 10,000 steps (or whatever your goal happens to be) is only the beginning of your fitness journey! Find a goal that motivates you, and get active and healthier. Your body will thank you.
If you haven’t downloaded the Pacer app yet, download Pacer for free (on mobile)! You can also check out our website (mobile or desktop) or follow our blog for more great walking and healthy lifestyle tips.