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Give your body a boost with more steps a day

In part one of a three-part series on "Today," Rosemary Ellis, editorial director of Prevention magazine, looks at how walking extra steps can make a big difference in your daily exercise routine.

Looking to change your life? If so, you might be able to forget those hours in the gym or that crazy diet plan. The editors of Prevention magazine say making a few small changes can have a big impact. Rosemary Ellis, editorial director of Prevention, was invited to appear on “Today” for a special series on three ways to change your life. Here are some tips she shared about exercise:

Walking 10,000 steps is an easy way to get your recommended exercise in for the day. Research shows people who set a goal of 10-K steps get more exercise than those who walk briskly for 30 minutes a day. Plus, you don’t have to do it all at once or set aside time — you can fit in those extra steps throughout your routine day.

Build more steps into your day
Here are some tips:

  • Park your car farther way from the office or shopping center.
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • Do a few laps around the mall before you start to shop. Lap the grocery store (or mall) before you start shopping.
  • Stroll around the field at your kid's soccer (baseball, field hockey, etc.) practice/game.
  • Use the bathroom (or water fountain) on another floor.
  • Take things upstairs or downstairs immediately; don't save trips by piling things at the top or bottom of the stairs so you only have to make one trip.
  • Change TV channels without the remote.
  • Pace while you talk on the phone.
  • Have your husband/kids drop you off a few blocks from home and walk instead of ride.
  • Do walking exercise videos like PV's "Walk Your Way Slim" or Leslie Sansone's.
  • Take a walk instead of sitting around waiting for your car at the garage.
  • Walk around the block while your kid is at piano, dance, etc. class instead of sitting around waiting for them.
  • Take walking breaks instead of snack breaks at work.
  • Skip the drive-thru and go into the bank, coffee shop, restaurant, pharmacy, etc.
  • Have a walking meeting with a colleague.
  • Every night before bed, walk around your house and do a quick pick-up/cleaning.
  • Climb an extra flight every time you use the stairs. For example, if you are going from the 1st to 2nd floor, climb up the extra flight to the 3rd floor and go back down the stairs.

Why is Prevention recommending 10,000 steps? Why that number specifically ? 
The President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports recommends exercising at least 30 minutes a day, five or more days a week, or walking 10,000 steps daily (about 4 to 5 miles), measured by a pedometer.

Also, research shows that walking 10,000 steps per day can help people lose weight and improve their heart health:

A study from the University of Tennessee found middle-aged women who took at least 10,000 steps per day were much more likely to have healthy body weight and body fat percentages, which reduces their risk for obesity, heart disease, and other illnesses.

Researchers gave pedometers to 80 women (age 40 to 66) and found that those who logged 10,000 or more steps typically fell into the healthy BMI index (body mass index) and had an average of 26 percent body fat. Women who took 6,000 or less steps had about 44 percent body fat and generally fell well into the overweight category for BMI.

In a 2001 study, 15 women with high blood pressure were told to double their routine step count to 10,000 steps a day. After about six months, their blood pressure dropped an average of 11 points. And the best news is that the participants usually logged their steps by simply building more steps into their day.

Are there any studies that back up the effectiveness of taking 10,000 steps a day? 
Research shows setting a goal of 10-K steps per day is more effective than just walking for 30 minutes. When researchers from the American College of Sports Medicine gave 58 physically inactive women either a goal of 10-K steps (which they tracked on a pedometer) or 30 minutes of walking, they found those in the 10-K group averaged 11,775 steps a day, compared with 9,505 for the 30-minute group.

Why walking? Why not running, biking or an aerobics class?
Everyone can do it, anyplace, anytime, with minimal equipment needs and no learning curve. Also, walking is safer and there's less risk of injury for people who are just starting to exercise. Researchers say that the pedometer walkers may pick up lifestyle habits that they incorporate into their days, while those who shoot for a time goal may have an all-or-nothing attitude — as in, if I can’t squeeze in that 30 minutes or hour of exercise, then I'll give up.

What does 10-K steps equal? Is it really five miles? Yes. That's using the estimate that 2,000 steps equals about one mile, or 5,280 feet.

How many steps around a standard-sized city block?
Ten city blocks equal around a mile — approximately 2,000 steps equal a mile. Given those numbers, one block is roughly 200 steps. 

Getting started:
Here is some more information from Prevention to help you get started:

Prevention's Pedometer Walking Program A simple way to get you moving, keep you healthy and help you shed pounds.

Pedometer Placement Where to put the pedometer to get an accurate step count.

Think in Steps, Not Minutes Science says step programs give you better results than exercising by the clock.