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What Happens When You Walk 15,000 Steps a Day?

I Committed to 15,000 Steps a Day For 1 Week, and This Is What Happened

I'm a fitness editor and a CrossFitter, so I was shocked when I clipped on a Fitbit Zip pedometer and saw my results at the end of the day. I barely broke 3,000 steps. For general health, experts like Harley Pasternak recommend getting at least 10,000 steps, and I was way below that number. Granted, I only do one hour-long workout and sit at a desk all day, so I'm not sure why that number shocked me so much, but since sitting all day is bad for your body and your brain, I felt compelled to do something about it.

The Experiment

MacGyver would be proud. I gifted my desk to my kids for their Lego/art table, dusted off my old treadmill, and rolled it to the place my desk used to be. I put my bookcase against the wall in the corner, then pushed the front of the treadmill all the way up to it. I stacked some old yearbooks on top of the bookcase and planted my computer and monitor on top so they were at eye level when I was standing on the belt.

I stole a few clamps and a wooden board from my husband's workbench and attached it just below the treadmill readout. I wrapped the mouse cord around the drink holder hole, and boom — a DIY treadmill desk! I pulled on my sneakers, attached the Fitbit Zip to the laces, and started walking. My goal was to walk 15,000 steps every day for one week.

Did I Do It?

Honestly, I thought walking a little in the morning would do the trick, but by noon on that first day, I had only gone 5,000 steps (2,000 were from my morning workout). I was walking pretty slowly, and stopping often, and sat for two hours during and after lunch and for meetings, so by 4 p.m. when I had to hop off my treadmill desk and go pick up my kids, I had only completed around 10,000. This meant that I had to get a little creative after dinner. I played an impromptu game of indoor tag with my kids, chasing them around the house, and threw in a few one-minute jumping jack contests and a mini dance party to Katy Perry.

After putting the kids to bed at 7:30 p.m., I still needed 2,000 more steps, so I walked up and down the stairs and around the house while checking Instagram and email. Yep, I did trip over my puppy in the process, who was following me closely, hoping I'd open the front door and take her for a walk! I was glad my husband was at hockey that night because he would have been like, "What the hell are you doing?!"

On the second day, I knew I wanted to get in some steps outside, so before work, I took the dogs for a woods walk while listening to my favorite body-positive podcast, Body Kindness. By the time I stepped onto my treadmill desk, I was feeling calm, clear-headed, and energized. Throughout the day, I walked slightly faster than the day before and took fewer breaks, so by the time I had to grab the kids, I had broken 12,000 steps. I still did some evening running around with the kids, and this time, I broke 16,000 steps!

The rest of the workweek, as long as I walked most of the day on the ol' treadmill desk, I easily reached 15,000 steps by bedtime. It was actually the weekend that was the hardest. I went for a long morning woods walk with the dogs Saturday morning for 90 minutes and barely broke 10,000 steps. It made me realize that all that walking throughout my day really added up to about two and a half hours of slow-paced walking.

How Did I Feel?

Hitting 15,000 steps a day was a little stressful. I knew I had to keep moving and not just stand and work, which took some getting used to. But by day three, I had gotten much better at typing and using my mouse while walking. I felt pretty energized throughout the day, clear-headed, and warmer (it's chilly here in Vermont!). Walking also encouraged me to do other bursts of exercise. I'd hop off the treadmill to take a bathroom break but would pump out a couple pull-ups or deadlifts, just because I felt like it!

My body and muscles felt great. Sitting all day definitely makes me feel achy, especially after a grueling morning workout, and it would often hurt to stand up after sitting for hours at a time. Walking throughout the day prevented tightness and even alleviated my usual next-day CrossFit soreness. I also fell asleep faster and slept well that week.

Now What?

I'm hooked! I feel so much better not sitting all day long, and this DIY treadmill desk makes it easy to stay active throughout my workday. I have the luxury of working from home, so I'm grateful for being able to do this — the only weird looks I get are from my two dogs. I'm not going to be strict about getting exactly 15,000 steps a day, and I won't wear my pedometer every day, but this definitely gave me insight into how much effort it takes to get that many steps. After doing this experiment, I feel inspired to get in more daily steps by parking further away, walking my dogs more (they're psyched!), and running around and having more dance parties with my kids (they're psyched, too!).

If you work from home or in a place that would allow it, I'd definitely look into buying a treadmill desk. If that's not possible, carve out times during your day, every hour or two, to take a five-minute walk. Every little bit helps, and I promise, you'll feel better!

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