Taking on the challenge to walk 10,000 steps a day is a great decision for better health.

Many health experts suggest aiming for 10,000 steps a day to improve your fitness, reduce your risk of disease, increase your energy levels, manage your weight and boost your mood and mental wellbeing. And the good news is, reaching that goal is probably not as difficult as you might think…

What does 10,000s steps look like?

10,000 steps equates to about eight kilometres, or one hour and 40 minutes walking, depending on your stride length and walking speed. But that doesn’t mean you have to do it all in one walk. You will naturally accumulate steps through your day to day activities, but to reach the 10,000-step goal, you will likely need to do a 30-minute walk (or the equivalent in other exercise) as well.

Every little bit counts throughout the day – you could walk part of the way to work, take a stroll at lunchtime, have a walk-and-talk coffee meeting, walk to the supermarket instead of driving, and take the dog out for as play in the park in the evening.

For other forms of exercise, Monash University suggests counting things like swimming, going to the gym and playing tennis by converting them into steps as follows:

• 10 minutes of moderate intensity activity (eg. swimming, cycling, horse riding, rowing, dancing, active gardening – anything that causes a slight but noticeable increase in breathing and heart rate) = 1000 steps

• 10 minutes of high intensity activity (circuit training, aerobics, brisk rowing, fast cycling, jogging, competitive sport – those things that make you huff and puff) = 2000 steps 

How to reach 10,000 steps

1. Use an activity tracker

Pedometers have come a long way – there is now a huge range of wearable activity trackers available that are comfortable, attractive and technologically advanced. These devices can be great motivational tools to help you reach your goals. Being able to see how you’re doing throughout the day can be an excellent way to boost your confidence, keep you focused on your aims and push you to chase the next milestone.

2. Choose your goal

If you haven’t tracked your steps before, you might find it really interesting to see how much you normally walk. For the first few days of wearing your activity tracker, notice what your normal activity levels are like and take some time to familiarise yourself with how many steps each activity is worth. If your normal lifestyle is quite sedentary and 10,000 steps seems like a difficult goal, just start small. You might decide to try to increase your activity by 1000 or 2000 steps a day. Every small improvement is a step in the right direction. Choose a goal that you feel is achievable and use each small success to motivate you to go further.

3. Enlist your friends, family or co-workers in a challenge

Doing anything as a group is a great way to boost your motivation and enthusiasm. Encourage your friends, family members of colleagues to join your 10,000 steps challenge, and the shared goal will help keep you all inspired. You could even start a friendly competition to push yourselves further.

4. Set reminders

Using whatever method works best for you – notes on your desk, calendar pop-ups, an alarm on your phone, or alerts from your fitness device – set a few reminders throughout the day to keep you inspired and motivated to get moving.

5. Make opportunities for activity

A great way to reach your goal is to divide your walking between active exercise and incidental activity. You can find plenty of opportunities throughout the day to be more active. Once you get used to looking for them, you’ll find lots of ways to avoid the easier options (like driving around the corner to the shops) and get moving instead. Soon, making active choices will become second nature. Here are a few simple ideas…

  • Take the stairs instead of the lift
  • Walk all or part of the way to work
  • Step out for 10 minutes with a friend or workmate
  • Go for a short walk at lunch time
  • Walk over to your colleagues’ desks instead of emailing them
  • Take the dog for a walk
  • Park the car further away (or get off public transport a stop or two early)
  • Walk instead of driving or getting public transport whenever you can
  • Carry the shopping in one bag at a time
  • Invite a friend to go for a scenic walk instead of meeting up for coffee (you could get takeaway coffees and sip while you walk, if you like!)
  • Embrace the household chores – and try to move as much as you can while doing them
  • Walk around while talking on the phone
  • Play active games with the kids