How to boost your step count (and no, it doesn’t involve a lunch time walk)

Keen to move but want to stay cosy at home? Follow these eight expert-backed tips for boosting your activity form home.

Ask anyone how to get more active and fit, and they’ll probably advise you to lace up and go for a walk. And yes, walking is great – we’re the first people to advocate leaving your desk and going for a stroll. But sometimes you don’t have time for a lunchtime hike to get 10,000 steps. If you live in an urban area or work in a city, you might be bored of walking the same concrete streets and when it’s cold and wintery, you don’t always want to leave the house. 

In those scenarios, how do you balance a desire to stay active with an equal longing to stay cosy and warm indoors?How do you make walking, moving and staying active at home feel accessible on a day that’s laden with meetings? We’ve been asking the experts for their tips.

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Always use the stairs

Walking inside is best done on a staircase, says PT Lavina Mehta MBE. “My recommendation is to do three flights of stairs, three times a day. Tie it into an existing habit, such as before or after a meal. Use the stairwell if you are in a flat, or repeat stepping up and down one step if you are in a bungalow,” she says.

The research suggests that this is possibly one of the most useful ways to move. A 2019 Canadian study found that short bouts of stair climbing activity throughout the day resulted in improvement in cardiovascular and respiratory health, aerobic fitness and overall body strength. 

For extra strengthening benefits, try “climbing the stairs two at a time,” says trainer and pilates teacher Hollie Grant. “This increases the depth that you essentially have to lunge up from, and can really help to encourage the glutes to do the work. Try to drive your weight through your heels, lean into the front leg, and minimise how much you push off your back foot.” 

Taking the stairs is a very simple and effective way to ramp up your movement.

Pace around when you’re waiting for things to happen

Some people are natural pacers. If they’re telling a story, texting a friend or cooking dinner, they’ll pace around continuously. That might put you on edge, but they’re the people who end up clocking up a load of steps without even realising. 

Again, the big selling point is less to do with the step count itself and more to do with the fact that it means getting off of your phone (let’s face it, most of us are scrolling while waiting for a pot to boil). Walking around or stirring the pot might give you time away from scrolling.

Turn your phone calls into walking meetings

This isn’t a new suggestion: in the corporate world, ‘walking meetings’ were part of the pivot to agile working, and employees were often encouraged to take their meetings on walks so they could be productive while not being strapped to a chair. 

When you’re in the office, ask your colleague to come on a walk to discuss whatever it was they intended on booking out a meeting room for. If you’re WFH, turn off your camera and take your Zoom or Teams meeting on a walk around your living space or outdoors.

Work in 25-minute chunks (before taking a 5-minute break)

The famous Pomodoro technique is based on the idea that we can only truly focus for 25 minutes. 

  1. Set a timer and go gung-ho on your workload
  2. At the end of the 25 minutes, step away for five minutes

These regular breaks are ripe for movement opportunities, in what is dubbed ‘exercise snacking’. Whether you want to do a few glute activating squats, go for a gentle back stretch or walk around your house/office, five minutes should be enough to boost concentration when you go back to your desk.

“Put some music on and dance around your room,” suggests Mehta. “Dancing around counts and will give you a mood boost.” 

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Do your house chores when you’re not in deep work mode

Look, it’s a boring one, but everyday chores require a fair amount of steps. Whether it’s collecting laundry to wash, unstacking the dishwasher or giving your flat a hoover, regular household tasks can be pretty exhausting.

You can actively make them more demanding, too. “If you’re taking the laundry upstairs, why not separate it into a few piles so you have to do four trips instead of one?” asks Grant. 

The key thing here is to remember that the things you don’t count really can count. 

Save up your household chores for the days you WFH – they offer a great opportunity to get up and moving.

Use your screen time to your physical advantage

Your screen time can be made instantly more beneficial by moving around during it. “If you listen to a 30-minute podcast, you could potentially rack up to 3,000 steps, even just walking around your house,” says Mehta. “Research also shows that if you do something that requires brainpower, such as listening to a podcast while exercising, it also helps cognitive development. You’re giving yourself a physical and a mental workout.

“There are some exercises that will get your step count up more, such as doing high knees, skipping or shadow boxing,” Mehta says. But if you’d rather keep your eye line in prime view, doing press-ups from the sofa, glute bridges and static lunges will be just as good.

Don’t delegate tasks or favours

It can be all-t00 easy to get partners, housemates or work colleagues to do us little favours. If someone’s already on their way to the kitchen to make a cup of tea, it’d be rude not to take them up on their offer to make you one too – right? 

But making drinks, walking to the bin, collecting the post – these are all tiny actions that can add up to more movement over time. 

Perhaps make a deal with your friends, family or work pals to be as selfish as possible in regards to physically helping each other with drink breaks and tidying up. They might end up driving you up the wall, but at least you’ll be moving. 

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On the days you WFH, try a fake commute

Stylist’s business development director in commerce, Hannah Coorg, wrote of her game-changing fake commute in lockdown, in which she packs a bag and leaves the house as though walking to the office. Only, she circles back around and comes home ready to start her day. 

Now many of us are back in the office at least part-time, we’re getting our weekly step count back up. But on the days when you work from home, it’s still worth getting outside and doing a fake commute. Use the hour before logging on to clear your head, getting some vitamin D and crucially, clock-up some steps early doors.

Images: Getty

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