How to walk more everyday (with little extra effort!)
Ready to get your steps in? Walking acts as a self-repair mechanism for the brain and body.
Did you know our bodies are engineered to walk around 10 miles every day? If this sounds miles off what you're currently walking, you're in the right place. Professor Shane O'Mara shares why and how to walk more.
Why should I walk more?
Walking acts as a self-repair mechanism for the brain & body. It allows us to explore––building ‘cognitive maps’ as we walk to understand our world, as well as strengthening the connections of the brain areas involved in learning and memory.
Scary statistic alert: as few as three or four days without movement reduces muscle mass in the legs and replaces it with deposits of fat. You won’t notice this when you’re 30, but you will when you are 60, when you may need assistance to stand up out of your chair.
Sedentary living over decades slowly changes aspects of your personality for the worse: you will be less open to new experiences, you will become less extroverted, and you will be less agreeable. These personality factors are central to normal social life and social living.
But modern life doesn’t help us to move at all. You might sit at your desk for seven or eight hours, and also be sitting during your commute. This could add up to ten hours of inactivity, five or six days a week, and a big energy slump with it.
Walking is an easy solution our brains adore.
How do I make myself walk more?
Instead of hitting the gym and pounding a treadmill for an hour after work, try building extra steps into your daily routine. Our bodies and brains are designed for, and need, lots of regular movement throughout the course of the day.
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How do you get 10,000 steps a day?
Hitting 10,000 steps a day has become a bit of a craze in the world of wellness, but really you just need to aim to be consistently in the top ten per cent for walking in your age group (which is roughly 8-9K is average for ages 25-45).
Quantifying your step count is a great way to keep yourself accountable and you can use the walking app on your phone or smartwatch to track your steps every day. If you're wondering how to increase steps per day, try these 5 strategies.
How to walk more: 5 steps
1. One-stop ahead
Get off your train or bus a stop or two early; do the same on the way home. This can add an easy two or three thousand extra steps per day, without you even noticing. If you drive, park as far as you reasonably can from work, and walk from there.
2. Coffee run
Go to a café ten or fifteen minutes walk away to take the edge off your appetite, and give you an extra two or three thousand steps in the process. Keep a comfortable pair of walking shoes under your desk, so you don’t have any excuse!
3. Lap of the office
During your work day, set an alarm to prompt you to stand and walk around the office every twenty-five or thirty minutes. You can also switch to taking standing and walking phone calls-walking for an hour-long call can add four or five thousand steps, that won’t feel like any extra effort.
4. Creative stroll
Before you start into a difficult and creatively demanding piece of work, head off for a fifteen or twenty-minute idea-generating stroll, and bring a voice recorder or a notebook to prime yourself for what you have to do. You’ll find you generate perhaps twice as many ideas compared to sitting at your desk.
5. Walking buddy
Try and find a partner-in-crime. We evolved as social walkers, making that long-ago journey out of Africa in small family and tribal groups. We are good at moving together, and we enjoy it, synchronising our breathing, walking pace and conversation easily and swiftly. Seeking social connections also helps improve your mental health.
How can I get my 10,000 steps without leaving the house?
If getting out and about is holding your step count back, notice that not all of these tips require you to leave the front door! For example, step 3 can be adapted to work-from-home days or cosy nights-in. Just set yourself a reminder to get up, walk around the house, or do a run of the stairs.
Here are some other ideas for getting your steps in, without going out:
Stroll around your house during TV commercials
Have a bedroom dance 'party' to your favourite playlist
Do a Youtube workout in your living room
Wander around your house while making phone calls
So, how do I train myself to walk more?
It's all about building up your step count little by little. In this article, Shane O'Mara has shared his 5 steps ideas for how to walk more, from getting off the bus earlier, to finding a walking buddy. They're so simple and subtle, that it'll feel like no effort to implement them!
Over the days and weeks, you’ll notice how much better you feel, and how your productivity has improved.
Who is Shane O'Mara?
Shane O’Mara is Professor of Experimental Brain Research at Trinity College, Dublin, and author of the recently-published ‘In Praise of Walking: The New Science of How We Walk, and Why it’s Good for Us’