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Healthy Balance

10 Things You Can Do Instead of 10,000 Steps

Older woman playing tennis on court
Instead of spending hours counting steps, play a game of tennis to boost your fitness level.

You may have heard that walking 10,000 steps per day is the get-fit gold standard. But do you know why?

The truth: the concept of walking 10,000 steps per day for optimal health was introduced as part of a marketing campaign for a pedometer. It wasn’t a recommendation based on medical science.

“Some studies have retrospectively showed that people who walk 10,000 steps are healthier, but that was kind of an arbitrary threshold,” says orthopedic surgeon Brian Werner. “The good thing is that it gives people who otherwise wouldn’t be interested in exercise something to work toward. It incentivizes them.”

The problem is that it can be time-consuming to achieve 10,000 steps per day. And the recommendation doesn’t account for exercise intensity. “You may be able to accomplish the same fitness results in a shorter amount of time by choosing a more strenuous activity that gets your heart rate up,” says Werner.

10 Alternatives to 10,000 Steps

The American Heart Association recommends that adults get at least 150 minutes of both moderate- and vigorous-intensity exercise each week. So instead of pounding the pavement for over an hour every day, Werner suggests trying to incorporate the following higher-intensity exercises into your routine to reach that 150-minute goal:

1. Biking

Biking is easy on the joints and it promotes leg strength and balance. Plus, it burns more calories than walking, so it’s better for weight loss.

2. Swimming

Like biking, swimming is also a low-impact alternative to walking or running. It’s great for cardiovascular fitness, endurance and muscle strength. Another perk: no sweat!

3. Elliptical

An elliptical machine works your upper and lower body, so you burn more calories in a shorter period of time and you can target specific leg muscles.

4. Interval training

Interval training, short bursts of a variety of high-intensity exercises mixed with periods of rest, improves cardiovascular fitness, builds muscle and burns fat.

5. Weight lifting

Lifting weights or resistance training not only builds muscle, it improves bone health and balance.

6. Kickboxing

A high-energy workout, kickboxing burns calories, boosts cardiovascular fitness and improves coordination.

7. Dancing

Dance takes coordination, so it improves fine motor skills and balance, as well as strength and flexibility.

8. Tennis

This game requires you to be quick on your feet, so it improves response time, muscle tone and strength.

Setting New Fitness Goals?

Talk to your provider first before starting a new workout routine.

9. Jumping rope

A playground favorite, jumping rope is great for adults too because it is easier on the joints than running but raises the heart rate for maximum cardiovascular benefits.

10. Hiking uphill

Like walking but better, hiking uphill engages some of the largest muscles in your body, which gets your heart rate up. Plus, getting outdoors is good for mental health as well.

If you need an incentive, challenge a coworker, friend or neighbor to a fitness challenge. And if 10,000 steps is working for you, then stick with it. The most important thing you can do to stay fit is to keep moving.


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