Work Toward 10,000 Steps

Dear, Anita,

Like lots of people, I’ve made a resolution to get in better shape this year. But with an 8-to-5 office job, it’s really hard to be active and lose any weight. What’s a desk jockey to do?

Dear, Cubicle Commando,

What? Your boss won’t agree to the hamster wheel standing desk?

A Japanese researcher in the 1960s, Dr. Yoshiro Hatano, determined the people should walk 10,000 steps a day to burn about 20% of caloric intake through activity. A pedometer company made this their sales slogan, and the 10,000 step recommendation (or challenge, as the case may be) is now, well, pedestrian. But with the typical American sitting 7.5 hours at work each day, according to, it’s hard to squeeze in 10K.

Would you like a few reasons to make the effort? According to the World Health Organization, physical inactivity is the main cause for 21-25% of breast and colon cancers, 27% of diabetes, and approximately 30% of heart disease. It’s being said, “Sitting is the new smoking.”

Let’s see how we can sneak more activity into your workday. First, you’ll need a tracking device. One of those pedometers should do the trick – just attach to the waistband of your PJs (you want to count those groggy morning schleps to the coffeemaker!) and switch it to your pants or skirt to capture your workplace steps. There are also cell phone apps like Pacer, Runtastic Pedometer, or Pedometer++. The drawback to a cell app is if you forget to take your phone to every meeting or trip to the bathroom, it can’t record every step. And they can deplete your battery more quickly. Wearable devices such as Fitbit or Jawbone fitness trackers come in clip on or wrist versions and allow you to monitor your progress on your computer or mobile device.

If you take public transportation to work, get off one or two stops prior to your usual and hoof it the rest of the way. If you drive to work, instead of looking for that rock star parking spot, leave your vehicle in no man’s land to log an extra 50, 100, or more steps on your pedometer.

Shoot for the stairs instead of the elevator. You work on the 13th floor? Lucky you (some buildings skip from the 12th to the 14th floor for the superstitious)! If the average flight of stairs contains 20 steps, you’ve just added another 260 steps before you even clocked in.

A trip to the break room to get your morning java – and the necessary restroom visit shortly thereafter – all start to add up.  Several times a day, pretend email doesn’t exist and walk to your co-worker’s office to hash out a project or ask a question. Is your printer within arm’s reach? Move it across the room so you have to get out of your chair more often.

A strenuous workout during your lunch hour may not be feasible, as you don’t want to offend your officemates if you haven’t time to shower before returning to your desk. Schedule the gym before work (yes, that means setting the alarm for o’dark-thirty) or after work if you’re nervous about finishing up in time. A lunchtime walk requires no change of clothes, though women may want to swap heels for sneakers. Make it a habit to window shop or stroll briskly through a nearby park. (If you’re opting out because you live in a cold, snowy climate, know this: your body burns even more calories to regulate your core temperature in cold weather. Bonus!)

Get a wireless headset for your office phone so that you can pace while on those conference calls. Schedule walk and talk meetings if you don’t need to access documents on your desktop computer.

Can you pat your head and rub your belly at the same time? If you’re coordinated, try an under-the-desk pedal exerciser if you feel you just can’t take walking breaks in your oh-so-busy workday. Test your pedometer to see if it measures cycling as steps.

Watch this British office worker reach and surpass her 10,000-step goal:

Keep the momentum going after work. Remember to take your phone out of your purse in the grocery cart so that all those trips up and down the aisles count on your pedometer app. When watching TV, get up during commercials – but don’t walk to the refrigerator every time.  Or, do what I did. Move into a second-story condo with a cute but incontinent dog who requires walks five times daily.

Readers: How many steps do you think you can tally each workday? Share your results below!

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

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Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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