How (And Why) I got 10,000 Steps Without Leaving My House

10000 daily steps without going outsideRecently,  I chose to reach for 10,000 tracked daily steps, even though I couldn’t leave my house.  Why would I do something like that in roughly 1,000 square feet of living space?


1. No Movement, No sleep

If I had spent all day on the couch dozing and watching Netflix while I was stuck inside, when bedtime came I would not have been able to sleep!  My sleep quality is measurably better on days when I move – I don’t wake up as much (or at all) during the night and I feel rested after 7-8 hours instead of wanting to hit snooze until the last possible second.

2. Some Semblance of a Routine

Life in Houston was disrupted enough, so I didn’t need to throw out all of my regular weekly routine on top of the huge changes I was already handling.  Routines are great for staving off stress and worry, so I chose to hang on to as much of mine as I could.

3. Digestion…

Movement is great for keeping your digestive system functioning smoothly.  If I need to elaborate, let me know in the comments 🙂

4. Movement Makes you Happy!

Hopefully I’m not the first to tell you that exercise triggers your body to produce more endorphins, which are your brain’s “happy chemicals”.  While science is still working on some of the details of when and why this happens – and while the effect might not have immediate benefits – I know that abruptly stopping an exercise routine really lets you feel the absence of those endorphins that you would have been producing from getting moving.  No need to be stuck inside and mopey!

5. Curiosity…

I don’t usually track my steps, and I don’t actually believe that my phone’s pedometer is incredibly accurate, but I had time on my hands to experiment.

How I Got 10,000 Steps Without Leaving My House

I’m not going to lie – some of it was totally boring!  But here is my honest report on how I got all those steps in while stuck inside.  I tracked my step count using my phone, and for consistency I kept it in a small shoulder bag while tracking.

1. Daily Life without Work: ~3,000 Steps

Cooking, cleaning, and just generally existing indoors generated about 3,000 of my daily steps.  I don’t usually keep my phone glued to me during the day, so this was pure education for me and about 1,000 more than I would have guessed.

2. Indoor Walking Workouts: About 2,000-3000 steps per “mile”

Did you know there are indoor walking workouts?  Leslie Sansone has got you covered.  I did 3 of her workouts during the first 2 days of my experiment, and while they weren’t the most exciting minutes of my life, I was definitely glad to have some company while I paced around my living room.  I think these workouts are a great option if you’re just getting started (or back into) cardio exercise, recovering from an injury, working out late in the day and want to get in some steps without raising your heart rate high enough to interfere with your sleep, or feeling overwhelmed by too many tough workouts.

My phone claims that 1 mile is about 3,000 steps, but in some of the video “miles” (about 15 minutes each) I only got in 2,000 steps.

3. My Own Indoor Circuit Workouts: About 2,000 steps per 15 minutes

I made up some circuits using light weights (so I wouldn’t have to put them down) and taking steps or even jogging in place between reps and sets.  Since I wasn’t moving my feet the whole time, I didn’t get quite as many steps as I had earned with the walking workouts.

4. Zumba: 500-800 Steps per Song

I worked on new Zumba choreographies and some old favorites, and I got in at least 500 steps per song.  My 20-minute practice playlist earned me 4,000 steps!  Zumba was by far the most efficient step-generating activity, which only surprised me when I compared it to jogging.

5. Playing Soccer with the Dog: 800 steps in 10 minutes

Not very efficient, but he needed some exercise, too, since he didn’t understand that our walking route was out of service.

6. Adding Steps to Everyday Activities: About 1,500 steps in 20 minutes

Instead of sitting down to read a blog post or a magazine article, I stood at a high kitchen counter and read while walking in place.  (It sounds weird unless you stop to think that that’s basically what a lot of us do on the treadmill.)  I stood and did butt kicks or side steps while checking email and working on blog posts like this one.  And I kept my feet moving while I was washing dishes and cooking. This was, honestly, a little boring – but it still counted toward my goal.

What I Learned

I don’t usually spend a lot of time thinking about my NEAT – my non-exercise activity thermogenesis, or the amount of energy I expend just living my life.  Since my heart rate never got up high enough during any of these activities except for Zumba for my step experiment to qualify as a cardio workout for me (which might not be the case for you – it depends on your current level of cardiovascular conditioning, and I am not saying that walking isn’t a workout!), all of these steps would fall into that NEAT category for me.

NEAT is pretty neat, actually – it doesn’t necessarily increase your cardiovascular efficiency or “burn a ton of calories” while you’re doing it, but it has a lot of good health benefits in addition to the ones I listed at the start of this post.  Being generally active, as opposed to generally sedentary, may truly help protect you from obesity, depression, sleep disorders, and learning and memory problems (check out the May 2017 research here into the role of certain neurons that seem to play a role in all of these physiological processes – I can’t wait to see what comes out in the next year or two on this topic!).

Does that mean you need to fidget all day or – after your trainer has disparaged them so much – get a FitBit? Not exactly.  But if you can take away three things from my experiment, here’s what I hope they will be:

  1. You can totally stay active while you’re inside, which is good news for our hot and rainy city (and good news if you’re reading this from another locale that has other weather that makes walking outside a challenge).
  2. “Working out” and NEAT are different, but they both have purposes in your life.  Just because you work out doesn’t mean it’s good to spend the other 23 hours of your day horizontal, and just because you get 10,000 steps in a day doesn’t mean you worked out!  One is for getting fitter/stronger/faster/leaner, and one is for having a healthy life from the inside out even if it doesn’t make you fitter.
  3. Movement is important for so many reasons – your heart, your brain, your sleep, your memory, your mood….  It’s not all about the calories you burn (that’s one of the least important parts)!

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