Staying Active At Work: How To Get Your 10,000 Steps at a 9-5 Job

“The Step Diet: Count Steps, Not Calories!” “10,000 Steps a Day to Your Optimal Weight!” “10,000 Steps to a Healthier You!” “10,000 Steps and You’ll Turn into a Unicorn with the Power to See Through Time and Space!”

active at work fitbit sad
Uh oh.

That last one is made up, but no doubt you’ve heard about the recommended 10,000 steps an adult should take every day. It may not be the magical solution to all of life’s problems, but there’s nothing wrong with setting a step goal to try being semi-active, or, at least, avoid being completely sedentary.

So how does one go about reaching those 10,000 steps, about 5 miles? There have been days when I get home, look at my Fitbit, and realize I’ve taken only 3,000 steps the entire day. 3,000! That’s barely over a mile. Usain Bolt could do that in less than 5 minutes. Working a desk job for 8+ hours a day and then driving home certainly doesn’t make it easy, but here are some tips on how to boost your numbers without denting your productivity.

Go for a Quick Walk

When I get the chance (aka remember to actually get up once in a while) I like to take a lap outside my building. Here’s what it does for step count:

+Going down the stairs to the lobby, takes about a minute and about 150 steps
+One lap around the building (1 block long x 1 block wide) takes about 5 minutes, and roughly 700 steps.
+Into the lobby and back up the stairs takes 2 minutes (give or take – stairs are hard, man) and adds that 150 steps back in.

In about 10 minutes I can add 1,000 steps to my day. Not only that, but getting some fresh air and taking a mental break helps hit refresh and boosts your productivity when you get back into the office.

Go Up and Down the Stairs

Telling someone to take the stairs instead of the elevator is the oldest piece of advice in the “Don’t Be Lazy” book. But this time it’s different, I swear! If you’re short on time and/or the weather is lousy, a quick trip up and down a flight of stairs is a good way to sneak in some steps. It’s also a good way to blow of some steam or get away from the office for a minute. You don’t even need to go full Rocky Balboa, walking up the stairs alone in a quiet stairwell can do wonders for your mental health and your step counter.

Treat Yourself

It takes about 200-250 steps from the lobby at my office to the Starbucks across the street. Add in the stairs to and from the lobby and that skinny iced caramel macchiato grants me about 750 more steps. That’s all the convincing I need to keep going back! Break up your day by grabbing a coffee, grabbing a to-go lunch from a local restaurant, or running a quick errand at a convenience store nearby. Making yourself have to retrieve something from the outside world gives you a real reason to step outside, even if just for a bit.

Talk to a Colleague IRL

Communication is an important skill to have, and technology makes it so easy to exchange information without moving. Not going to lie, I love it. Slack is my messenger of choice, and while it is an amazing collaboration tool, the ease that it brings to communicating also makes it easy to never have to move. That’s not always a bad thing – messaging someone around the corner makes it fast and easy to get questions answered, communicate about projects, or just say hi without shouting and irritating my coworkers. But occasionally the back-and-forth gets a little ridiculous or I can’t type quick enough to thoroughly express a thought on my mind. Take those opportunities to stretch your legs and pay that person a visit. The time it takes to walk over and chat will still probably take less time than to type out an entire conversation.

Inconvenience Yourself

The quickest ways between two points is a straight line. And short of climbing over desks, people tend to stick to this when navigating the office. Sneak in a few more steps by choosing longer paths (when urgency is not a factor, of course). Select the office printer furthest away from your desk. Take the long way around the cube farm when walking to another desk. Park your car at the back of the parking lot. If you take public transportation, get off or on an earlier stop and walk the rest of the way. Use the 20-foot winding safety ramps instead of the three small stairs. Each office will have its own unique options for adding in steps. For example, the SHIFT Boston office has two kitchens – the closest one to me takes about 20 steps to walk to, while the other takes about 50 steps to walk to. That small change adds up! What opportunities exist around your office?

Recruit Coworkers

Chances are, you are not alone in your desire to escape your chair and goals are easier to hit when you have someone to hit them with. If you have a coworker who will take the walk with you, it makes it that much easier to go. Add it as a 15 minute calendar meeting and you can be sure to fit it in everyday.

Have Class Outside

Take your meetings outside! This won’t work for every occasion, but some small meetings don’t need to take place indoors. If you have a one-on-one check in with your manager, or you like to touch base with coworkers about your plan for the day, take it outside! Go for a quick walk for these informal discussions and get that productivity boost when you come back inside. A little sunshine and fresh air does wonders for conversation and adds those steps to your count.

Set an Alarm

active at work reminders

Getting more steps in requires a bit of thinking and planning. Personally, that’s where I fall short. I’ll plan to get up and take a quick breather every few hours, but instead I lose track of time and realize it’s 1 pm already and oh man there are a bunch of meetings this afternoon and oh snap it’s five o’clock already and I’m only at 2200 steps for the day. Reminding yourself to get up every few hours will help you refresh your mind and squeeze in a few more steps. I tell myself that I shouldn’t have to set a physical reminder to get out of my chair, but should is the worst excuse for not setting yourself up for the best possible success. Set a reminder in your phone, or put your activity tracker to good use! A lot of trackers these days have a silent alarm function, or automatically ping you when you haven’t moved in a while. Your computer may have a reminders option, and my old buddy Slack has one as well.

active at work slackbot reminder

active at work success

9-5 jobs are usually associated with increasingly sedentary lifestyles, but it doesn’t have to be. Taking time to take care of yourself is an important part of a healthy lifestyle, and will help you be more productive at work. Try these tips to squeeze a little activity into your workday!

Angie Goldman
Marketing Analyst




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