Step Up Your Workout

Written by Libby Norris

Packing a pedometer can be one of the most effective ways to kick-start or kick up your workout program. Pedometers are easy to use, inexpensive and track all of your activity - from walking to the cross-trainer to chores around your home.

If you are just beginning to workout, a pedometer can help you to set both a baseline and goals. Your baseline notes the activity level you are at right now. Use your pedometer for 3 days, with one day on a weekend, and then divide your total steps by 3 to calculate the average number of steps you take in a day. From that baseline, you can then set weekly targets for 8 weeks to gradually increase your daily average, which gives you both immediate and mid-range goals.

Here's your strategy. Start adding to your total steps with regular activities in your day - taking the stairs more often, parking further from the office or store, taking more steps around your home or office instead of less. These things really do add up to generate more energy and more calories burned! Small burst of activity - as little as 5 minutes - do contribute to your overall time and health benefits.

Once you've increased the activity in your lifestyle, start adding to your intentional exercise. Choose activities you enjoy, as you'll stick with them longer during each session and over time. Walking is one of the easiest choices, but this can be any activity that elevates your heart rate, including cycling, skiing, hiking, swimming, skipping, or energetically playing with your kids!

How do you know how many steps to take? A number you often hear in is 10,000 steps a day, which may sound a little daunting! This number is an "ideal" target reflecting a healthy, active lifestyle that includes intentional exercise. Most people will fall at least 4,000 steps short of this target. Don't get overwhelmed; use that 10,000 steps as a positive goal to strive towards versus an unattainable task! Once you're working out regularly - or if you're already there - a pedometer can be a fun and effective way to keep you motivated. I use my pedometer daily to "beat the clock", making a game out of finding new and different ways to add to my steps. I also pinpoint the days I am least active and try to focus on keeping those ones up.

Pedometers are also a handy tool to help you through plateaus that you may hit when you workout regularly. Plateaus are common and are points in your program where your progress seems to slow down or stop. One reason you can hit a plateau is when your body begins to accommodate, or get used to your regular activity and routine. Your body ends up working less and burning fewer calories as it becomes accustomed to the demand you place upon it. Using a pedometer can help you to shake up your schedule by adding more or different steps in to your weekly program.

So whether you're just beginning to workout or an experienced exerciser, a pedometer can play an important role to keep you moving and motivated!

Always consult your health care professional before making any significant changes in your dietary habits or your physical activity routines.

*©, 2013 Trademark of Kellogg Company used under license by Kellogg NA Co

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