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10,000 steps to fitness

By Melissa Tennen, Contributing Writer, myOptumHealth

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Get on the road to good health by walking 10,000 steps every day. The directions for getting there couldn’t be any simpler. Here’s all you need:

  • A pedometer
  • Comfortable sneakers and shoes
  • Comfortable clothes
  • A logbook

And that’s it. Exercise doesn’t have to mean joining an expensive gym, getting sweaty and breathing hard. Any kind of movement, such as doing the laundry and walking to your co-worker’s cubicle, can help on the road to a strong heart and a healthy weight.

Everyone needs at least 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week along with eating a balanced diet that includes fruits and vegetables. This can help ward off heart disease, diabetes and some cancers. Keep in mind that if you want to cut down on your weight, you will also need to cut down on your calories. Your energy intake should be less than what you expend.

Take a look at your typical day. Chances are you do a lot of sitting – in the car, at your desk and in front of the television. Then think about times during the day when you are moving. Is it lunchtime to run an errand? Is it walking from your car to the office building? Is it climbing the stairs to your bedroom? Those are all good, heart-healthy things – the things you should be doing.

Now take away time from sitting and spend it moving. You want to build on the activities you already do and look for excuses to add steps, building to 10,000.

Are you ready? Here’s your map:

  1. Buy a pedometer. This is the key to your 10,000 steps program. A model that just tracks your steps should cost no more than $15. Wear the pedometer on your waist, wherever the instructions tell you, usually either near the center of your body, near your belly button or on your hip, above your pants crease.

  2. Get a good pair of sneakers and comfortable work shoes. If your feet don’t feel good, you aren’t going to want to move much.

  3. For the first week, don’t change your activity level. Just see how many steps you typically take in a day. This gives you a starting point.

    After a week, look at your logbook. Use that as your guide to reaching 10,000 steps. If you are typically walking about 2,000 steps, add another 500 and aim for 2,500 a day for the next two or three weeks. The idea is to build slowly. You don’t want to injure yourself or burn out.

  4. Look for excuses to move. Instead of e-mailing your co-worker, go over to that person’s cubicle. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Park your car farther away. During television commercials, do minor chores around the house.

  5. As you get into better shape, add in a 30-minute walking session around the block. This is essential for reaching your 10,000-step goal.

  6. Reward yourself when you reach a goal. See a movie, buy yourself a new outfit or spend the afternoon with a friend.

How you reach your goal is up to you. Biking, running and swimming count, too. While you may have to set aside your pedometer for some activities, the idea is to get moving and keep moving.

Every movement counts. So, get moving.

View the original 10,000 steps to fitness article on myOptumHealth.com 


  • Shape Up America. 10,000 steps. Accessed: 10/01/2009
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Prevalence of overweight and obesity among adults: United States, 2003-2004. Accessed: 06/03/2009


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