Over the years, the daily 10,000-step plan has been cited as the most effective way to maintain health and fitness. But while there’s no doubt that having a daily exercise goal and using it to stay active is definitely better than leading a sedentary lifestyle, reaching for the 10,000-step barrier may be daunting. The good news is just 4,400 steps a day can help you live longer and to get there, you just need a couple of 10-minute walks throughout the day.
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Exercise isn’t always about how much you do — the quality of your workouts is important, too. A recent BBC documentary by Michael Mosley and Rob Copeland, a professor of physical activity at Sheffield Hallam University in the U.K., shows that during short bouts of exercise you are more likely to raise your heart rate into a higher zone than you would when completing a single, longer duration workout. Instead of the 10,000 steps per day philosophy, Mosley and Copeland favor shorter 10-minute walks at a higher intensity for greater calorie burn. Because they feel more manageable, you’re more likely to stick with a walking routine long-term.
Raising your heart rate several times a day for 10 minutes has also been shown to have positive effects on overall health, including lowering body fat, improving cholesterol, boosting metabolism and more. Since you know you only have a short time to walk, it can motivate you to push harder and burn more calories.
To reap the health and fitness benefits of walking, the goal should be a minimum of three, 10-minute sessions per day. As your fitness improves and you want to increase the difficulty, try 15-minute sessions instead.
Here a few ideas you can use to incorporate short, high-energy walks throughout your day:
- Walk the dog: Pets can be the perfect training partner, and the energy they bring to a daily walk should be enough motivation to pick up the pace a few times per day.
- Go post-meal: Getting into the habit of a short walk after a meal can help aid digestion as well as serve as a way to unwind from daily stressors.
- Include the family: Inviting a spouse or the kids to join for a short walk around the block is a great way to bond while getting in a quick round of exercise.
- Ditch the car for short trips: If you are running errands, park a short distance away from your destination and get one of your walks in. The trip back can also count as walk number 2.
- Mix it up: A morning walk around the neighborhood, a few quick laps around the mall in the afternoon and a 10-minute indoor session in the evening work just as well as a few loops around a track.