When are you ready to increase your walking exercise, miles and steps?

While most people want to walk more, there are some distinct signs that you’re ready (or not ready) to increase your daily step count. Doing more walking exercise burns calories, strengthens your heart and muscles, and gives a variety of other health benefits. Walking too many miles, however, can lead to injuries and also make walking simply less enjoyable. While you can easily test the waters by adding a short walk or a bit of speed, some fitness walkers would be better off working on their intensity, consistency, and daily habits rather than boosting their top-end step count.

These 10 signs indicate you may want to increase your daily step goal. We’ll cover how to go about assessing your step goal, when you’re physically (and mentally) ready for more steps, and how to ease into steps gradually.

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Can you increase your step count?

Runner checking phone and smart watch
Milan Ilic Photographer / Shutterstock

Most people can add a significant amount of steps to their daily count with a little prep, planning and effort. Maintaining that additional step count is the hard part. Going for 20,000 steps in a day does you no good if you’re sore for a week and don’t want to any more intensive walking in the future.

Check your schedule: Take a day or two to track your schedule throughout your day. Chances are you’ll notice a fair amount of sedentary time, like TV watching or phone checking time. Those are prime times to add additional steps. If you’re very strapped for time, you may want to consider maximizing limited time over trying to add many more steps.

Check your consistency: It’s generally better to have consistent steps day after day rather than some low step days and some high step days. While it’s always great to improve your average, doing it in occasional spikes can risk injuries and can make it hard to create a consistent daily habit. If your steps are not consistent, look into improving those low-step days rather than trying to make your already high-step days even higher.

Know your body: Pre-existing injuries or health conditions can make it a challenge to get large numbers of steps. As we get older, it also takes longer to recover from a tough workout. It’s important to be honest about your physical condition when looking at a step goal. Set a goal that’s realistic for you, and listen to your body or talk to your doctor to understand when you need to pull back from a tough step goal.

Signs you’re mentally ready to add more steps:

Happy woman standing next to bridge after walking

Adding more steps to your daily number isn’t just about physical stamina. You need to comfortable with your current step count, as well as have the motivation to push yourself to get more steps. Here are some signs you’re in the right frame of mind to increase your steps:

Easy steps: If you’re able to hit your current step goal without having to put conscious effort into hitting your total, you can probably find more steps in your day.

No struggle: Many people struggle to find the time or motivation to hit their current goal. If you have to consciously motivate yourself to hit your 10,000 steps, you’re better off working on your current routine than trying to go even higher.

Walking is fun: Walking should be fun! You can take in nature, listen to a podcast, and experience the great feeling of getting some exercise. When walking becomes a chore, worry less about your number and get back to making walking fun.

Not stressing over the number: If you’re constantly feeling stress or pressure about your step number, you’re probably not enjoying your walks. Your step number should be a fun challenge, not something you feel guilty for not hitting. If you’re feeling guilt or stress about your numbers, work on your daily habits and work on making walking fun before you start adding steps.

Signs you’re physically ready to add more steps:

Middle aged man stretching during a run
George Rudy / Shutterstock

If your body isn’t ready or able to take on additional steps, trying to push too many steps too fast can lead to overtraining and injuries. It’s definitely possible to walk too many miles, especially as you get older or if you’re dealing with pre-existing health conditions or injuries.

No Soreness: Some light soreness is natural after a long walk, but if you’re feeling persistently sore day-after-day it’s a sign you’re doing too much exercise. Soreness can also come from not getting enough rest, so look at your sleeping habits as well before trying to increase your steps.

Good posture: The more tired you get while walking, the worse your walking posture may get. Maintaining perfect posture throughout your walk is more important than adding steps. If you notice your posture starts to flag towards the end of your walks, try breaking up your walks into smaller chunks and focus on that instead of additional steps.

Intensity is high: Doing more intense forms of fitness walking, like walking stairs or power walking, can be just as good for you as adding more steps. While you can try running, at some point your intensity will be maxed out. At that point, you’ll want to add more steps and walk longer to get more from your walks.

Add more steps the right way

Man walking up stairs as an intense workout
Dean Drobot / Shutterstock

If you’re ready and able to add more steps to your daily total, slow and steady is almost certainly the way to go. Increase your steps gradually over time, and take some time with each elevated step level to ensure that your body can handle it and you’re still having fun with your walks.

1,000-2,000 steps at a time: Try to add 2,000 steps or less to your goal (about a mile a day). It’s enough steps to be a challenge, but not so many steps that it will seem too far to reach.

Give yourself time: Don’t try to hit that extra thousand steps tomorrow! Set interim goals and milestones to work your way up. You’ll start to train your body for the additional steps, and you’ll find it easier to work the time into your day.

Take a pause: Once you hit your new step goal, stick with it for at least a week (if not longer) before trying to add additional steps. You’ll often find one day of a certain step count feels fine, but several days in a row may lead to soreness. Building effective habits take time, so don’t rush!

Don’t be afraid to step down: If you start to feel soreness, pain, or if you’re just not enjoying your new higher step count then don’t be afraid to drop your steps – at least temporarily. You’ll often find that dropping your step count, and focusing on strength training or intense walking can springboard you to new highs. See what else you can do to get your habits, mind, and body right and then give your new step goal another try!

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