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From 3.000 to 14.000 Daily Steps

How to get from below 3k to 10k steps daily? In this blog post Til shares his progression, insights, tips and hacks on how you can increase your daily step count adding more movement. Follow along to improve your health, increase your focus and energy levels!

Let’s have a look at my journey from below 3.000 steps average to above 14.000 steps per day. I hope you find this information helpful and it motivates you to get moving. Have fun!

Why Movement?

We all heard of the magic 10.000 steps we should take every day. You probably also heard “sitting is the new smoking” before. There are a lot of studies outlining the health benefits of movement throughout the day, like this one: Effects of 10,000 steps a day on physical and mental health…

If you are still in doubt wether it’s a good idea at all getting more movement into your day – have a look at e.g. Katy Bowman’s excellent Move Your DNA or Sitting Kills, Moving Heals by Joan Vernikos. For now I’ll just list a few mental benefits found on University of Colorado’s website:

  • Releases endorphins and helps relieve stress
  • Allows us to take a break from everyday challenges and responsibilities
  • Helps emotions move through our bodies
  • Provides an outlet for self expression
  • Strengthens the connection we have with our bodies

Also have a look at a book review/summary like this one by Brian Johnson. This is what got me (to buy this particular book and) thinking about stepping up my step game:

Btw, I do love Brian Johnsons’ (now free!) Optimize page for more info on the science of movement, motivation and basically how to live. Thanks for sharing Brian!

Let’s move on from why to how to implement more movement in our daily lives. We will look into simple movement habits (1), pedometers and other motivational boosters (2) and my treadmill lovestory (3). Before we get started, let´s just have a quick look where we are at right now in terms of step count so we can think about where we want to go.

Where Are You Right Now?

And how many steps should you take? Here you can see where are and where you want to be on the sedintary-active scale. Classifications taken from a Pubmed paper:

  • Below 5000 steps/day may be used as a ‘sedentary lifestyle index’
  • 5000-7499 steps/day is typical of daily activity excluding sports/exercise and might be considered ‘low active’
  • 7500-9999 steps/day likely includes some volitional activities (and/or elevated occupational activity demands) and might be considered ‘somewhat active’
  • 10000 steps/day indicates the point that should be used to classify individuals as ‘active’
  • Individuals who take >12500 steps/day are likely to be classified as ‘highly active’

Choose a target one above your current activeness and read on to learn how to get there.

Is 10000 Steps Right For Everybody?

A side note about the 10000 steps also from above paper:

10000 steps/day appears to be a reasonable estimate of daily activity for apparently healthy adults and studies are emerging documenting the health benefits of attaining similar levels. Preliminary evidence suggests that a goal of 10000 steps/day may not be sustainable for some groups, including older adults and those living with chronic diseases. Another concern about using 10000 steps/day as a universal step goal is that it is probably too low for children, an important target population in the war against obesity.

How Do You Get to Your Goal?

1. Simple Movement Habits

Ok, I’m in! Let’s move more… but getting from an average 3k to 10k just seems overwhelming. Just parking a few spots further from the grocery store won’t get you there. Well, it’s a start … and actually it’s a good example of an idea how we can bring back some of the vitalizing movement into our everyday life. As you learned in above video, Katie Bowman calls them OTM’s – opportunities to move.

Here a few more mini movement habit ideas:

  • Put your water (bottle) out of reach on your desk so you have to get up to take a sip.
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator
  • Walk to co-worker’s office rather than email or calling them
  • Attach movement habits to existing ones: Every time you hit the send email button, get up and jump a few times in the air.
  • Set a timer to 30 minutes and do 3 burpees every time it goes off.
  • Use the bathroom furthest from you in your home/office.

Can you think of more? Let everybody know in the comment section – thanks!

2. Pedometers Rule

One more thing you can do, is getting a pedometer! Research says that simply using a pedometer will increase your step count significantly. It does not have to be a fancy watch with app connection. Just a ten dollar device in your pocket will do… Btw, I have to put my pedometer watch in my pocket too lots of times as it won’t count steps when you are pushing a buggy 😉

Oh and by the way, every smartphone (that’s not decades old) can be used to track your steps. There is a gazillion step counter pedometer apps to choose from for both iphone and android – well, and windows phones too I assume.

The Numbers

It does work! This is how my step average went from below 3k in 2018 5.5k in 2020, just by using a pedometer. Please note I mentioned below 3k, because just as the above mentioned research suggests, I did try to move more once I got the step counting device. It’s amazing how this little device gets you to get creative – e.g. I started jumping in front of the coffee machine when waiting for the coffee… at least in my home office ?

Average Steps in 2018: 3105
Average Steps in 2019: 3900
Average Steps in 2020: 5500

There was one study (I can’t find the link to it right now, will provide once I do) on how (formerly active) people were restricted to a certain amount of steps steps per day. I think the threshold was about 5k steps, below which most of them got severly depressed. This motivated me to try raise my step count above 5k, as seen in the course of 2020 in the third image.

Pedometer Apps & Games

What? I’ve made 20k steps yesterday and have to start from 0 again today? No carryover? The daily reset can be a bit of a drag. So make sure you install an app that not only counts your steps but also displays the ‘streak’ prominently – meaning how many days in a row you reached your goal. This can be highly motivating! Some apps also show your previous best streak so you can compete against your old self.

Here is a link to step counting games and apps that can help you enjoy every step even more. Most games use your steps as fuel/coins/mana to drive/buy/feed your game character and ace the game. I do think it’s a good idea and it can definitely help get motivated if you like playing games.

Let’s have a quick look at motivation in general.

Motivation Squared

This all sounds good, it’s still sometimes hard to get motivated. To get around this gap between what we want for our future selves and what we feel like doing in the moment, I highly recomment Atomic Habits by James Clear or The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. Above mentioned simple movement habits are really one of the essential takeaways from those books:

Above books do mention great little hacks like e.g. locking away the remote conrtrol and putting a book next to the couch instead. Thus using our own flawed motivational system to get ourselves to do what we should do by making the good habits easy and the bad habits hard (just like the war on junk food is won at the supermarked – once you have those sweets at home it’s too late).

The people with the ‘most willpower’ actually just seem to have good habits so there is no need to use excessive willpower, it’s all about the things you do on a daily basis.

Interestingly there seems to be new evidence that goes against a few of the hints in above books. Check out Andrew Huberman’s episode on habit formation, and the one on motivation -mostly looking at what is going on with dopamine in the brain:

You can’t go wrong watching any of Andrew’s podacst episodes, Andrew Huberman Lab podcast is my favorite sources for behavioral protocols based in neuroscience knowledge. Cheers Andrew!

3. Treadmill Lovestory

Ok, so now tell me how to get from 5 to 10k or even 14k!?! The cool think is that it’s just one single little intervention: Put a treadmill under your desk!
Serisouly, if it’s at all possible without loosing you clients or any other major counter indication. The covid epidemic made most of us even more sedentary, but the now possible homeoffice is indeed a great opportunity for getting started with a treadmill desk.

The treadmill is a game changer! Just tell me how many steps you want. No problem – easy peasy, i’s a walk in the park! ?

treadmill under desk

As you can see the chair has been degraded to a by-stander ? I am going to talk about the light in another blog post (about nightowls).

Can you really work like this?

Do I still hit the right keys on the keyboard? Doesn’t the mouse pointer go all over the place? Can you even think clearly with that treadmill humming below?
Yes, defninitely! The slowest pace rather feels just like a little weight shift as if using a standing desk. The hands/arms do rest on the desk thus preventing any transfer of movement. The only thing you will notice is that you are more focused (probably because of more oxygen being transported to the brain!?)
Only if you crank up the speed to like 3 mi/h (about 5km/h) reaching jogging speed is when it will get harder to hit the right keys.

Some studies and reviews indicate that it takes about 3-5 months before you get used to the tradmill desk. Saying productivity goes down a bit but after that the productivity goes up compared to before using the treadmill. It took me only 2 days ? Actually I could feel the power on the first day after lunch: To get walking after lunch almost completely eliminated the afternoon sleepiness I experienced beforehand!

The type of work might influence how productive you are. But for me output went up throughout: doing my job as an animator, animating Felini the Kitty, writing emails (and this post), programming apps and just being creative (brainstorming, writing, drawing).

How effective is the treadmill in adding steps?

Walking at a comfortable pace of 2 to 3 km/h (1.2 to 1.8 miles per hour) you add about 1000 steps per 10 minutes. So just turning on the treadmill for half an hour in the morning and another half hour in the afternoon will add 6000 steps to your pedometer without you even noticing it. How cool is that?

Average Steps in 2021: 10397
Average Steps in 2022: 14538

I don’t care too much for gyms, as a matter of fact I have never been a member of a gym in all my life (45 years!). I rather did (before the flood of offsping emerged) do sports outside as in jogging or playing ball games as part of a team. So buying a treadmill felt a bit foreign. But it’s the best 350 bucks I have ever spent! I just love the treadmill under my desk so much! Even if the under-desk treadmill would be a subscription (a model I despise, at least being on the paying end of it) I would be more than happy to spend that amount again every year.

Mother Nature’s Magic Pill

When contemplating the treadmill desk idea I came across this German article. It oulines some of the benefits of using a treadmill while working:

  • Maintain / loose weight
  • Manage blood sugar / insulin
  • Lower risk for heart disease
  • Eliminate back pain
  • Raise mood and energy
  • Increased productivity
  • Longevity

One reason I was looking into more movement was an episode of severe pain and numbness in my right shoulder/arm/hand over almost half a year. This was probably coming from the spine due to the lack of movement and bad posture while working.

So far the pain/numbness never came back. You might have noticed that I am quite happy with the impact the treadmill desk had on my mood, productivity and overall health.?

Treadmill vs Standing Desk

Just owning a standing desk (for almost 10 years) didn’t do anything for me. I always had to force myself to get up and stand up while working. Sitting just felt so much better that I rarely made use of the desk in it’s elevated state. Walking is an entirely different feeling – I really do have to remind myself to sit down for a while every now and then, that`s how good & energizing the ‘walking desk’ feels.

Finally, I’m walking! And can consider myself active ?

Take your time and expect adveristy

Of course it’s always best make those steps outside, addeding benefits for eyes, lungs and psyche. But I found the treadmill desk one intervention that’s easy to include in even chaotic circumstances.

Social Environment

Busy schedules in work and private life seemingly prevent us from working on ourselves. But demanding bosses as well as the family members have to understand that we are useless when sick. Being healthy and feeling well (physically and mentally) is the basis for having any sort of positive interaction, let a lone being productive at work or rocking the kids and the housekeeping.

That is why it is critically important that we take that time (or at least get some steps in on the side using a treadmill desk ? ) Employers, friends and family will benefit when we are healthy, sharp and good-tempered. Arbeitgeber, Freunde und Verwandte werden davon profitieren, wenn wir gesund, aufmerksam und ausgeglichen sind.

Concer Your Weaker Self

Besides the environment we will meet resistence from within – as we learned in the paragraph on motivation. The human brain is the most creative excuse and procrastinating machine: “I have to tidy the garage”, “my little toe hurts” or it’s just too cold/warm/wet… to go outside for a walk/exercise.

But as we all know there is no bad weather, only bad clothing choices! ? Other excuses should be tackled by developing simple routines & habits.

twin buggy pushed through green forest
Adding to the step count with the twins

But this is also a call not to stress out to much about the figures. Just try get back to the good habit the next day possible so it can be maintained in the long run.

Let’s Get Started

So let’s just start jumping when waiting for the bus! Download that pedometer app if you want to boost your motivation. And if you want to make huge progress with little effort and can afford it (in terms of price/space/boss/clients), order a treadmill!

Have fun stepping up your step game! I would love to read about your experience and the hacks that work best for you in the comments below.

Cheers!
Til

Disclaimer: As of now I do not make any money when you purchase any of the mentioned books or treadmill. However, I might try to monitize some links on this page in the future. Once I do so, this text will change of course.

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A Journey of 10.000 Steps

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