Most of us will have read that walking 10,000 steps a day is recommended to maintain good health and wellbeing, and while 10,000 steps is likely to be achievable for many of us, what about 20,000? That’s almost 4 hours of walking at a medium pace every single day. We put it to the test over a 30 day period to see if it was possible. This is what we learnt.
You need a strategy
Between work, family and social commitments, most of us won’t have a spare 4 hours to spend walking each day so a strategy is crucial if you want any chance of hitting the 20,000 step goal. Through trial and error we came up with a strategy that looked a little like this – 1hr of walking first thing in the morning before work racked up about 8,000 steps. A mid-morning 20 minute walk and we hit about 10,5000 steps, a 30 minute walk at lunch got us to 14,000 steps. Mid-afternoon we could usually manage about 10 minutes (another 1000 steps). Followed by a bigger walk after work (4000 steps) and about 1000 steps of incidental movement during the day meant we hit the 20,000 step goal.
Some days we switched the after work walk with a post-dinner stroll and cut the morning walk down in order to walk a little more at lunch time. Some days our morning walk yielded 10,000 steps and other days about 6,000 steps. Keeping track of steps and modifying your daily strategy is key to hitting the 20,000 step goal.
You need a great pair of shoes
Comfort is key, and a great pair of running or walking shoes will be your best friend. The beauty about walking is that you don’t need any particular clothes but good, supportive shoes that give you a little pep in your stride are a must. Rainy days might mean boots over trainers, but whatever you choose make sure you can walk for hours in them.
You will lose weight
If you are eating the same amount as you always have but are walking 20,000 steps you will lose weight. However, it’s very likely that you will also be hungrier and eating more if you have increased your activity, our advice is to fill up on healthy snacks, carbs and protein to keep your energy levels up. Keeping hydrated is also important when you plan to walk so many steps a day so carrying a water bottle where possible is a great idea. Our tester lost 3.8kg in 30 days and was eating about 20% more food than usual (and not all of it healthy food!). An added bonus is the loss of that stubborn belly fat that is difficult to budge, you simply walk it off.
You will feel it
Contrary to the belief that you need to run or workout in the gym to feel the muscle burn, walking 20,000 steps regularly will give the muscles in your legs and behind a good workout. Particularly in the first few weeks of starting your walking adventure when your body is getting used to the increased volume of activity. Massage, hot baths, a good night’s sleep and a magnesium cream or spray can all help to relieve the muscle tension.
Make sure your are counting all of those miscellaneous steps
Having a way to count all of those miscellaneous steps that you rack up each day is crucial, it’s best to have a smart watch or a step tracker that can easily clip on to your clothes. If you are tracking steps on your smart phone you are likely to miss a lot unless you religiously carry it everywhere which isn’t always possible when it’s on charge or when you are just heading to the bathroom, going to a meeting or grabbing a coffee. A wearable tracker will mean you won’t miss any steps no matter how few they are.
Getting your friends and family on board helps
Having a walking partner (family member, friend or four-legged friend) is a great help as it keeps you motivated and provides a great distraction if you have someone to talk to as you walk. Whilst you may not be able to rope someone in to committing to 20,000 steps a day with you, even having company a few times a week will help break up the monotony. Many towns and cities will also have community walking groups so see if you can find like-minded people in your area to join you on a walk – you never know, you may even meet some new and interesting friends.
Take the occasional day off
20,000 steps day in, day out can start to get a little monotonous, taking the occasional day off from counting steps can help to break up the routine. Our tester found that when she took a day off she actually still walked and felt the urge to get active, even if the steps weren’t being counted.
Don’t beat yourself up for not hitting the target
Life has a habit of getting in the way when you make plans, if you get caught up at work, or school or for any other reason don’t beat yourself up about it, anything over 10,000 steps a day is a great achievement in itself, some days you might not hit your target but focus on doing it all again the next day and smashing the 20,000 goal.
Vary Your Walking Path
Variety is the spice of life, so mix it up by choosing new and different paths and trails to walk, or even drive to a new destination that you haven’t explored before. On weekends make a day of it and combine your walking with little siteseeing or hiking, stopping to picnic and enjoy the scenery on the way. Cities are also great places to walk, as the added stimulation from the hustle and bustle will keep you entertained and distracted from counting steps.
The beauty of walking is that you can literally do it anywhere, even on the spot in your living room! It’s a great way to get into a regular exercise practice and a good way to keep fit and healthy without the expensive gym membership.