HealthAgenda

Physical Health

5 ways to reach your daily step goal

The average Australian walks only 4,000 steps a day. Here are five ways to increase that number and improve your health and wellbeing.

Regular movement is important to keep your body in healthy, durable shape. The amount of activity that is ideal for you will differ according to your individual circumstances, but the Australian Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines generally recommend a goal of 10,000 steps every day for a physical activity level that is associated with health benefits. Here are some tips on how to achieve your daily step goal.

What are the benefits of walking 10,000 steps a day?

The figure of 10,000 steps a day is often chosen as a daily goal by personal trainers, fitness trackers and health magazines. Most of us only walk around 4,000 steps a day, reports Care Australia. For some of us, a goal of 10,000 steps seems unachievable and sometimes disheartening.

Over the past five decades, a few smaller studies have showed we might not have to reach that golden number to get benefits from walking.

One of the most recent is a 2019 study by Dr I-Min Lee at Harvard University. Dr Lee found an average of about 4,400 steps a day led to significantly lower mortality rates in older women. These rates continued to lower until a step count of 7,500 was reached with no significant benefits achieved after that. Other studies recommend people take anywhere from more than 5,000 to as many as 8,500 steps a day.

This lack of agreement in the scientific world could be one of the reasons the Australian Department of Health guidelines measure exercise recommendations in hours instead of steps. These guidelines recommend that adults between 18 and 64 years of age do 2.5–5 hours of moderate activity each week, like walking, dancing, hiking and swimming.

With that in mind, here are 5 simple ways that could help you get moving more for better health and wellbeing:

1. Download an app

If you like motivational talks, the Apple Time to Walk feature allows you to listen to celebrities, like Dolly Parton, Stephen Fry, Shawn Mendes and Jane Fonda, talk about where they find their inspiration. If you prefer fiction, sign up for suspense thriller The Walk, an audio spy novel where you are the main character. It’s interactive, immersive and produced by the same people as the popular Zombies, Run! app for runners.

2. Listen to a podcast

There are thousands of podcasts to choose from and many of them range from 30 minutes to one hour. Find one or two that you love, but only allow yourself to listen to them when you’re moving. This could be while you clean the house, walk to the shops or go on a hike. That way you’ll be motivated to stay active until you’ve finished an episode.

3. Walk down memory lane

Use the time on your daily walk or in your daily life to record yourself talking about a person, memory or time in your life. Just use earphones and the record function on your phone (or apps like Rev Voice Recorder app) to record your memories as you move. Share these with your family, or just save them to listen to yourself.

4. Schedule walks

Contact with friends and family is a great way to distract yourself from how long you’ve been moving. It can also have positive mental health benefits, particularly during the social isolation of COVID-19, so it makes sense to include them in your fitness plan. You could meet up with a different friend for a walk, or you could call a friend on every walk.

Consider walking or hiking groups as well, as other people will encourage you to get moving even when you might not feel like it – though make sure to keep any government social distancing guidelines in mind if there are COVID-19 restrictions in place in your area.

5. Create small changes

Small everyday changes can make a huge difference to how much you move in a day. Meet friends at cafes you can walk to, have phone meetings while you walk, get off the bus one stop early or do a supermarket shop instead of ordering online. It can all make a difference to your overall health and wellbeing.

Health and wellbeing support

We want our members to be their healthiest selves, which is why we’ve developed a range of health and wellbeing programs to help you manage your weight. Our free Healthy Weight for Life programs help improve your quality of life if you’re overweight and have osteoarthritis or are at risk of developing a chronic condition. You must have had an eligible hospital product for 12 months.

If you don’t meet the criteria above and have eligible extras cover you can claim towards this program. Find out more about HCF’s Health Management Programs*.

Words by Lucy E Cousins
Updated November 2021

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