Sneaky Ways to Get More Steps

I started using an activity monitor – again – a few months ago, and it’s satisfying to see the step numbers ticking upward every day.


The positive reinforcement also motivated me to find ways to get in more steps, every day. 

Most of these ideas are simple, but effective:

  • Schedule walking meetings. My colleague/friend, G., and I have been trying to take a 20 minute walk together nearly every day this summer. Sometimes we talk about work. Sometimes we don’t. We would likely have spent the time commiserating anyway, so the steps and extra Vitamin D are bonuses.
  • Take yourself out for a quick stroll. My neighbor D. and I were talking about this last night: when we feel frustrated with work, we take a quick walk break. It’s only five minutes or so, but it allows time to chill out/cool down, and there’s almost nothing work-related that can’t wait five minutes. Over the past few months, I’ve done this up to three times per day. That’s a substantial number of steps.
  • Find “lost” time. Everyone has junk time in their day, i.e., those moments that could be used more productively. For me, it’s the time that it takes to turn cases over in the OR. Regulations on cleaning operating rooms require at least a ten minute break between most of the cases I do, and with spending two to four days per week in the OR – often doing quick cases in succession – I  quickly discovered that I can walk laps around the perimeter of the OR suites and get at least 500 steps in between cases. I used to spend this time drinking coffee in the doctors’ lounge, FYI. This feels better.
  • Walk around your house – a lot. A few months ago, I started making domestic chores a lot harder than necessary (and, if you follow regularly, you know I hate/avoid all domestic chores). I used to fold laundry like this: dump everything on my bed and fold it while listening to NPR, then precariously carry a stack of folded laundry to each child’s room, my own closet, etc, when I was done. Now I do this: dump everything on my bed, intermittently listen to NPR, grab the first item I see and then fold it while walking it to its proper home. This requires dozens of trips to my kids’ closets, my own closet, etc, but it can rack up a thousand steps or more in the process. More advice on how to maximize this “house walking” strategy can be found here.
  • Be strategic about your exercise. Last spring I was flirting with the idea of taking a bicycle trip to Napa Valley this fall with my good friends J. and B., so I decided to practice biking by riding the Expresso machine at the gym, which is a sophisticated exercise bike that allows you to ride virtual courses and mixes up the terrain. Basically, it’s riding a bike in a video game, and it can be a phenomenal workout. Except … my activity monitor didn’t credit me for any of it. Zip. Nada. However, the elliptical machine does count every step. So when I need to make it count, I’m rocking the elliptical all the way.

Please share any tips you have for getting in more activity!