How To Reach Your Daily Step Goals When Working From Home

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Stay-at-home orders and quarantine life have forced us to make some pretty abrupt changes in our fitness routines. And even though you may have the best intentions to meet your step goals every day, the bottom line is that it can be harder to do when you’re spending more time in the house. Despite your best intentions, it’s really easy to get sucked into a more sedentary lifestyle when you don’t really have anywhere to go and the couch is literally right there.

You know how it goes: You wake up in the morning, tell yourself you’ll just sit down on the couch for a few minutes and then next thing you know, you’re two coffees and four Friends reruns deep. If this sounds familiar, don’t feel bad. You’re in the company of many others.

While sitting around more frequently may have been fun for a while, after more than three months of staying at home — and news of some companies turning to remote work for good or at least a while longer — you may be looking for some motivation and ideas on how to take 10,000 steps when you’re spending more time inside. It’s true that reaching your step goal indoors requires you to be a little more deliberate with your steps and your time, but it’s totally doable.

As the weather starts to warm up, you always have the option to go outside and walk around your local park or hit the track at your local high school. But if those areas seem too busy for your comfort, there are plenty of ways you can get creative inside your home.

Get a smartwatch and don’t ignore alerts to move

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If you’re tracking your steps, it’s likely that you already have this one checked off the list, but I wanted to suggest it anyway, in case you don’t. When I started to fall into a quarantine sit-around-all-day slump, I treated myself to an Apple Watch ($399 at Apple). The deal was that I had to make a valiant effort to get off the couch and close my three rings every day. In the back of my mind I thought, “yeah, OK, that’s just my excuse for spending the money, and it’s not really going to happen,” but I was actually surprised at how well it worked (when I let it).

At first, I would dismiss every “stand” and “breathe” notification that popped up, but after about a week or so, I decided to play along and let the Apple Watch give me the motivation I needed. I obliged every alert and notification and really got moving and now, three months later, I make it a point to crush my goals daily.

Closing rings and getting digital awards may sound cheesy to you at first, but they actually provide some serious external motivation, even if you’re someone like me who doesn’t really love exercise, but does it anyway for the physical and mental benefits.

Of course, you don’t have to get an Apple Watch. There are other, less expensive options out there, like the Fitbit Versa 2. If a smartwatch isn’t in your budget at all, you can also opt for a basic pedometer or one of many free pedometer apps that you can download right to your phone. The apps are usually not as accurate as wearing something on your wrist, but they’ll still give you a good idea of where you stand.

Walk while you binge

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Let’s face it; some days (or most days), the appeal of binge-watching the new season of Queer Eye far outweighs any desire to get up and get moving. But instead of settling into the couch with a box of tissues and a bag of Doritos and completely succumbing to Jonathan Van Ness‘ charm, strap on your pedometer or your smartwatch and get to stepping.

Of course, you don’t have to walk for the entire episode — and you’re free to choose your own binge-worthy show to watch — but the point is to move instead of sitting. And move like you mean it. Swing those arms, bring those knees up to your chest and get that heart rate going so you can really reap the benefits. If you really commit, you can rack up 4,500 steps in one 45-minute episode. March through two episodes and you’ll knock off 90 percent of your steps for the entire day.

Looking for more tips? Check out these ways to exercise while you’re bingeing your favorite TV show.

Pace in your place

You might feel silly walking back and forth in the hallway or in circles in your kitchen, but desperate times call for desperate measures. While the scenery may not be as visually stimulating as the passing trees you see when you’re walking in the park, a step is a step, no matter where you take it.

You can simply pace back and forth in one area of your living space or map out an indoor track. For example, my living room, kitchen and dining room all connect in a circle. I mapped out the area and know that it takes 71 steps to do a full lap. That means 20 quick laps around, which takes me just over 17 minutes, will help rack up 1,420 steps.

If you go this route, optimize your effort. Instead of walking in a straight line from point A to point B, follow your home’s floor plan and walk along the perimeter of each room to get as many steps in as possible.

Listen to a podcast

If the thought of walking around in circles in your house doesn’t give you the motivation you need to get moving, make it more appealing by finding a podcast you love and listening to it as you go. Listening to a podcast helps you zone out so the time goes by much faster. And if you walk briskly, you can knock out up to 3,000 steps by the time your 30-minute podcast is over.

I like to listen to personal development type podcasts as I work out because it makes me feel like I’m getting a physical workout along with a mental one. Some of my favorites are Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations, The School of Greatness by Lewis Howes, and Not Another Anxiety Show with Kelli Walker, but there are so many that you can choose from. If personal development podcasts aren’t your bag, find a genre that excites you and then start going through the options until you find one you really enjoy. You can also swap out a podcast with an audiobook and let someone else read to you as you walk.

Walk every time you have a phone call

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Quarantine has been all about the Zoom calls, but if you’re still spending a lot of time having regular phone conversations or conference calls, use that time to get your steps in. Every time you take or make a phone call, start walking around your house and continue to walk until the end of the call, whether it’s 5 minutes or 30.

Keep in mind that if you’re putting a decent effort into your steps, you’ll probably get a little out of breath. While this is fine for team calls or check-ins with your colleagues, it might not be the best idea for phone interviews or something more formal.

Even if you don’t have work calls, you can use your step goal as an excellent excuse to actually call a family member or a friend instead of texting. Spend 15 minutes on the phone, pacing while you talk, and you can rack up 1,500 steps without even thinking about it.

Be less efficient

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Normally, when you’re doing chores or cleaning up the house, the goal is to get as much as you can done in as little time as possible, but when you’re trying to get your steps in, make it a point to be less efficient.

  • Instead of piling up all of your laundry in a stack that’s taller than you and then struggling to get it all to the washing machine in one trip, bring a few armfuls at a time so that you have to walk back and forth several times.
  • If you have kids or pets and you need to clean up their toys, grab one at a time and put it back where it belongs before going back for the next one.
  • If you’re bringing groceries in from the car, resist the urge to pile as many bags as possible onto each arm and take only two at a time — one in each hand — until everything is brought into the kitchen.

It might seem like these things will only add a trivial amount of steps to your day, but once you start doing it regularly, you’ll see how fast all those 20-step extra trips add up.

Get a treadmill desk

Treadmill desks take the advice to stand up as you type one step (pun intended) further. If you haven’t already heard, there are actual under-desk treadmills that you set up with a standing desk to turn your workspace into your workout space — a multitasker’s dream. But there are other options, too.

If you already have a treadmill, there are also desk attachments that you can snap onto your treadmill’s handlebars to turn it into a treadmill desk. If you don’t have the budget or the space for a treadmill desk, you can opt for a regular standing desk without the treadmill attachment and walk in place as you work. If you do this at a moderate pace for one hour, that’s about 6,000 steps that you can check off at the same time as your work to-do list.

Fair warning, things can get a little bumpy and it’s not as easy to type when you’re moving as when you’re sitting stationary in a chair, but after some practice, you get used to it.

Get a mini trampoline

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OK, you might not technically think of jumping as steps, but it does count toward your step goal. And a study done by scientists at NASA in 1980 found that jumping on a mini trampoline — or rebounding, as it’s officially called in the fitness world — is a more efficient exercise than running on the treadmill at any speed. It also puts less stress on the body, so injuries and sore joints are less likely.

Rebounding, even for just five minutes a day, may also help increase lymphatic flow. The lymph system is responsible for isolating infection and clearing out toxins from everywhere else in your body and, unlike the circulatory system which uses your heart to pump, the lymphatic system has a weak internal pumping system. Because of that, lymph drainage relies heavily on skeletal muscle contractions and jumping on a trampoline is one of the most effective ways to get things going.

You can get any type of mini trampoline, but bungee rebounders, like the ones from JumpSport or Leaps and Rebounds, tend to be the easiest on your joints. They’re also a lot quieter than the spring-style rebounders.

Dance around the kitchen while you cook

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Getting in your steps doesn’t have to be a formal, robotic process. Make it fun by turning it into a dance party. Since you most likely have to cook or prepare a meal in some way at some point anyway, you can get two tasks done at once. As an added bonus, listening to music and dancing are both proven ways to help reduce stress and boost happiness.

Instead of standing in front of the stove waiting for your pan to heat up or for the water to boil, put on your favorite song and dance around the kitchen. Dance to the refrigerator, taking as many steps as possible, as you get out ingredients. Shimmy back and forth as you chop veggies (but be careful).

Make it a competition

Nothing lights a fire under me faster than turning a step goal into a “friendly” competition. And by “friendly” competition, I mean “completely unfriendly, there’s no way I’m going to let you beat me” competition. That might be the Type A in me, but even if you don’t consider yourself a competitive person, you might be surprised at how much more motivated you feel when you’re trying to out-step someone else (especially if that someone else is your significant other).

Research shows that competition can help boost physical effort — both in the short- and long-term, increase physical motivation, and improve performance (as long as the situation doesn’t require a lot of mental effort).

If you have an Apple Watch, you can share your activity with anyone else who has one, too, so you can see where you stand in real time. If you don’t, you can easily send pictures or screenshots of your step status with your competitor to keep track.

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Aim to meet your step or move goals every day, but don’t fret if you don’t.

Angela Lang/CNET

Don’t beat yourself up

Now that I’ve given you all of my best advice to reach 10,000 steps indoors, here comes the cliche pep talk: don’t beat yourself up if you don’t get there right away. I know, I know, but seriously — 10,000 steps, which is equivalent to about five miles, is a lot. If you’re coming from a sedentary lifestyle, you’re probably not going to be able to jump off the couch one day and rack up 10,000 steps around your house like it’s nothing — and that’s OK.

Ten thousand steps isn’t some magical fitness number — that step goal was actually created in the 1960s by a Japanese company that was trying to sell a pedometer. And it worked. Since then, that number has become the go-to step goal for health enthusiasts, myself included.

But if the thought of 10,000 steps intimidates you, scale it back. Make it your goal to reach 2,000, 4,000 or 8,000 steps indoors for a couple of weeks and then once you’ve nailed those goals, you can work your way up. A study that was published in JAMA Internal Medicine actually found that you start seeing some serious health benefits at just 4,400 steps per day, and once you reach 7,500 daily steps, those health benefits kind of level off.

Even if you were fairly active before the shutdown in March and the number doesn’t intimidate you, but you relied on outdoor activity or the gym to help you reach your step goals, figuring out the best way to get there indoors is going to take some trial and error. Be patient with yourself through the process. You have to learn what works for you and what doesn’t. Start with a few strategies on this list and then go from there. Soon, you’ll figure out what you like and what you don’t and hitting your step goal indoors will become second nature.

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