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The Top Reason to Track Your Steps—Plus, Ways to Take More

Keep tabs on your walking, meet your daily step goal, and get a lot healthier.

Updated on May 5, 2023

couple walking in the park
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If you’re like most people, chances are you’re not getting enough exercise. Adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each week, or at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity, according to government experts. These same guidelines also call for muscle-strengthening activities at least twice per week. Keep in mind, if you can come closer to 300 minutes per week of moderate exercise or 150 minutes of more strenuous activity, it’s even better. In fact, the more exercise you get, the greater the health benefits.

Unfortunately, only 28.3 percent of men and 20.4 percent of women are meeting these new fitness standards, the National Center for Health Statistics reports. Adults who are inactive put themselves at higher risk for various chronic health issues, including diabetes, heart disease, cancer, dementia, and depression. 

If these recommendations seem like unattainable goals, it’s important to remember that any amount of physical activity is better than none. Just try to move more and sit less, experts advise. Exercise also doesn’t have to involve a gym or heavy equipment, such as a treadmill. Shoveling, gardening, taking your dog for a walk, and other low-impact activities are all considered exercise. Even just a two-minute stroll offers health benefits and will count toward your weekly fitness goals.

Here are some ways you can add some extra steps into your day.

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Track your steps

Tracking your steps can help you meet daily fitness goals. Research suggests that a pedometer, a wearable step tracker, and even your smartphone can help you get more active. The trick: You just have to stick with it.

Smartphone apps in particular are effective tools you can use to get active, according to a 2021 review of 35 studies published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. Apps that use an accelerometer, which automatically track how much you move, may work best since they’re largely effortless.

If you own a smartphone—more than 85 percent of Americans do—you can easily track your steps, too.

Ready to get tracking? Sharecare, available for iOS and Android, can help you track every step you take throughout the day—and achieve your activity goals. Steps are automatically logged once you activate the tracker.

woman walking up stairs
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Take the stairs

Need to go up or down a floor for an office meeting? Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Small, vigorous movements spanning one or two minutes—like climbing the stairs—are associated with substantially lower mortality, according to a 2022 study published in Nature Medicine.

exercising in front of tv
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Exercise while watching TV

As you watch your favorite show, march in place, do some jumping jacks, or try a plank to raise your heart rate. By finding ways to stay active during the day, you exercise your muscles and, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, reduce your risk of heart disease.

man walking with cell phone
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Walk to work and on your lunch break

If you live near the office or the train station, a great way to add steps to your day is to walk instead of driving. You can also get off public transit a stop or two early and walk the rest of the way to your workplace. On sunnier days, venturing outside during your lunch break will help soak up some vitamin D and its much-needed benefits. Exercise of any sort—such as a brisk walk to work— helps to reduce stress and anxiety.

women working together
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Walk to a coworker’s desk

Instead of reaching out to a coworker via messaging, email, or phone call, take a walk to their desk to ask for help. Not only will you sneak in a few extra steps, but it’s easier to get your coworker’s attention. You can also take your meetings on the move. Grab your coworker for a walk-and-talk instead of sitting in a conference room.

man talking on phone
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Pace on the phone

Whether it’s in the office, in the comfort of your own home, or on the go, taking a stroll while talking on the phone helps fit some additional steps into your day. Plus, it can get circulation going and help avoid blood clots, especially if you’ve been sitting for a few hours. Even just fidgeting while you’re talking on the phone, watching TV, working on your computer, or reading burns calories.

person pushing a shopping cart
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Park far away

By parking your car further away from the entrance of a building, or on the top floor of a parking garage, you can add extra steps to get to and from where you’re going.

Bonus: Climbing parking garage stairs burns about 60 percent more calories as walking at a moderate pace. Just be careful at night or in dimly lit areas.

woman mopping floor
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Clean the house

Picking up around the house for a few minutes before bed is another productive way to pack steps into your day. Not only do you burn calories, but according to a 2016 study published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, you can help mitigate the negative impact on your well-being that messy living environments can sometimes bring.

During the day, run the vacuum or mop the floor to clean your house while getting in additional steps.

 

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Get others involved

One of the best ways to stick to a walking plan is to get friends and family moving with you. Grab your loved ones and go for an after-dinner stroll. Commit to lunch time walks with a coworker. Instead of happy hour, meet a friend to catch up in a local park. Have them track their steps as well—a little friendly competition might motivate everyone to move more.

Slideshow sources open slideshow sources

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans 2nd Edition. 2018. 
Elgaddal N, Kramarow E, Reuben C. Physical Activity among Adults Aged 18 and Over: United States, 2020 Key Findings Data from the National Health Interview Survey. 2022. 
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Lack of Physical Activity. Page last reviewed September 8, 2022.
Laranjo L, Ding D, Heleno B, et al. Do smartphone applications and activity trackers increase physical activity in adults? Systematic review, meta-analysis and metaregression. British Journal of Sports Medicine. 2020;55(8):bjsports-2020-102892. 
Ferguson T, Olds T, Curtis R, et al. Effectiveness of wearable activity trackers to increase physical activity and improve health: a systematic review of systematic reviews and meta-analyses. The Lancet Digital Health. 2022;4(8):e615-e626. 
Pew Research Center. Mobile Fact Sheet. April 7, 2021. 
Stamatakis E, Ahmadi MN, Gill JMR, et al. Association of wearable device-measured vigorous intermittent lifestyle physical activity with mortality. Nature Medicine. 2022;28(12):2521-2529. 
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Physical Activity and Your Heart – Benefits. Page last reviewed March 24, 2022. 
Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Manage Stress. Page last updated July 20, 2022.
Kotz CM, Perez-Leighton CE, Teske JA, et al. Spontaneous Physical Activity Defends Against Obesity. Current Obesity Reports. 2017;6(4):362-370. 
American Council on Exercise. ACE Fit | Physical Activity Calorie Counter. Accessed on February 9, 2023. 
Roster CA, Ferrari JR, Peter Jurkat M. The dark side of home: Assessing possession “clutter” on subjective well-being. Journal of Environmental Psychology. 2016;46:32-41. 

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