Step Count: Why It Matters and Ways to Get More

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Am I too old to remember what pedometers looked like before you could track your steps on your watch? I guess those who grew up in the time of pagers didn’t think it was ridiculous to wear this Tamagachi-looking box clipped to your waistband to see how much you moved in a day.

As a former competitive athlete, the concept of a step count and competing against myself every day is really motivating. I used to pace around my apartment to get more steps at night. I was chasing an arbitrary number and literally couldn’t sit down until I hit it. Competitions are great but as I get older I start to think, why do I care?

One big reason why I care is because my precious little babies are still so young and rely on their mother to be healthy to raise them. Another big reason is because those kids are getting FAST and I need to be able to keep up with them! As someone with a desk job, hitting a certain number of steps per day can be difficult, but definitely not the hardest thing in the world. I also have to kick myself sometimes and think about the problems I have, because many of my loved ones work physically back-breaking jobs that it seems like a luxury to even be able to sit for a break.

I recently saw a post on Instagram that humbled me in thinking about what is really hard:

step count: "Getting up at 5am to work out is hard. But being 50 pounds overweight is harder. Meal prepping is hard. But having hypertension and diabetes is harder. You can choose to have your hard up front, or have something harder down the line. Choose your hard." - James DiNicolantonio

Does Step Count Really Matter?

So being the scientist I am, I got to thinking: are more steps better? Luckily, there is a lot of research on this topic! I’ll spare you the boring details but if you’re interested in learning more, check out these great articles: National Institutes of HealthHarvard School of Public Health.

There is a fairly common goal of 10,000 steps in a day but that isn’t a one-size-fits-all number necessarily. Make sure to talk to your doctor about what number is right for you. For me, I have been aiming to hit 6,000 steps in a day consistently before I increase that goal. I haven’t hit this goal every single day for the past few weeks but I have definitely doubled my normal amount of steps in a day.

Any number can seem daunting if it’s more than what you’re doing now. I know what you’re thinking: “I’m a busy mother of what feels like 10 kids, how can I get more steps when I’m exhausted/haven’t slept/need to cook dinner/do laundry/insert any mother’s task here?” I thought that too. I still think that on a regular basis!

A woman in business clothes looks down at her watch to check her step count.

Ways to Increase Step Count

Here is where I started, as a full-time working mom, trying to “fit everything in.” I hope these give you more ideas on how to keep your body moving throughout your day, in whatever hard and busy lifestyle you lead!

  • Reframe Motivation

If I quit moving, I quit being able to keep up with my kids — and that’s not what I want for myself.

  • Plan Ahead

I wake up a little earlier to get a few hundred steps in before the day gets away from me.

  • Take Advantage of Breaks, or Create Some

For example, I park further from the door at work (or anywhere I go) or even get to the parking lot a little earlier to take a lap or two before I go inside. If I eat lunch quickly, I spend the rest of my lunch break walking outside.

  • Choose to Walk Instead of Drive

Our daycare is less than a mile away and I take the double stroller to get my kids a few times a week. We also walk to the park instead of driving.

  • Start Walking Laps in the Backyard

When my kids are playing at the water table or digging in the dirt, instead of sitting and watching them I choose to get up and walk.

Getting back to this routine provides just as much a physical activity as a mental decompression from the day.

  • Walk Around the Neighborhood After Dinner

If we have time before bath, we often walk the neighborhood and let our son ride his bike.

a little boy walks on pavement with a toy chainsaw
Sometimes bribery is the only way to get your walking buddies to cooperate, like when I let my son bring his new toy chainsaw on the walk.

I hope some of the steps I’ve taken (pun intended) can help you in some way! I realized when I started walking more, I wasn’t more tired; I actually felt better. I did have to change my habit of buying cheap running shoes and finally invest in some quality walking shoes, but so far it’s been worth it. I expect as the weather gets warmer, I may have to shift some of my routines to deal with the mask of Charleston summer humidity, but at least I’ve made a strong base of being able to get these steps in!

What are some ways you’re intentional with your step count as a busy mom?

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Residency training brought Tina to Charleston and after securing her full-time dream job as a clinical pharmacist, she couldn’t leave. Tina was born and raised in Punxsutawney, PA and attended the University of Pittsburgh before coming to the Lowcountry in 2014. She also holds several fitness and coaching certificates: Crossfit Level 1, USA Weightlifting Level 1 and Pregnancy & Postpartum Athleticism, that she used to coach Crossfit locally. She and her husband Andrew call West Ashley home, along with their two bulldogs, Bosworth and Jackson, and their two young children, Reid and Charlotte. Motherhood has reignited her passion for writing in her "free time" - fueled by lots and lots of coffee.

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