On a normal day in New York City, I would easily get 10,000 steps in by the evening—and that's without doing anything special like working out in the morning or having a busy day of meetings and appointments in different parts of the city. No, a "normal day" would include walking to my subway stop, getting on the train (and sometimes standing if there weren't any seats), and then walking 10 minutes to my office—and doing the reverse commute on my way home, with some walking throughout the day around the office or to pick up lunch or go outside for a coffee break. Most days, I would feel the extreme satisfaction of looking at the steps on my iPhone's Health app and knowing I was active without really having to try so hard.
Now, though, I have to try a lot harder to get any number of steps in. That's because I recently moved from the walking metropolis that is NYC to the sprawling, car-centric Los Angeles. For the most part, I haven't had many complaints about moving to L.A. (it is my hometown after all), but my biggest gripe is getting used to driving again and all that entails, from the traffic to parking to sitting in the car because of said traffic. While not having to rely on my own two legs as a primary mode of transportation is definitely not a hardship (and I'm lucky to have a car), I do worry about the effect my new somewhat sedentary life is having on my body.
In New York, I would work out two to three times a week, and for the off days, I banked on my work commute as another way to keep active. But that was my old life. In my new life in Los Angeles, I am working on becoming a morning person with my much longer commute by car. I drive about an hour and a half to work every day, walk a couple of steps from my car to the office, and sit at my desk. I try to get up every hour or walk to get lunch. Some days I get up even earlier to work out before heading to the office, but that's only two or three mornings a week. I'd say at least two times a week my Apple Watch likes to remind me of my inactivity—you haven't really lived until you've had a tiny tech gadget sassing you about your lack of steps. Generally, I've been averaging about 3000 to 4000 steps on days I don't work out.
Not only does my Apple Watch feed into my worries about not being active enough, but also all of those stories out there about sitting and early death leave my hypochondriac mind spinning. In 2018, the American Cancer Society released a study that found "a link between long periods of leisure time sitting and a higher risk of death from all causes, including 14 or 22 causes of death measured by the study." Just typing that scared me into taking a few minutes to walk around the office mid-story.
So, in my efforts to stay more active, I reached out to two experts, Whitney Johns, a certified personal trainer and Plankk Studio instructor, and Angelo Grinceri, a master instructor at P.volve, for some tips on how to get more steps in throughout the day. For the most part, they didn't say I needed to spend all my days in the gym now that I'm not walking as much, but advised me to make sure I'm doing something active every day.
According to Johns, "Working out harder can help, but this constant sitting can be harmful even for the active person who exercises regularly as it can blunt the positive effects of your workouts. It inhibits the flow of blood, circulation, and nutrients to your muscles." So the only remedy for that? Moving my body and walking more throughout the day.
I took their advice and made a game plan to incorporate into my daily routine. And by listing out these steps below on the internet for all to see, I'm hoping this will hold me even more accountable. So here goes nothing…
1. I'm Going to Convince My Co-Workers to Do Walking Meetings
"Take business calls on foot, or suggest a walk-and-talk meeting instead of sitting in the conference room," says Johns. While you can't have a walk-and-talk if your meeting involves 20-plus attendees, I'm going to suggest it for my one-on-ones with colleagues (and even my boss). So get ready, Hillary Kerr, Kat Collings, Michelle Plantan, and Steph Limiti.
2. I Will Take the Stairs When Possible
I draw the line at anything more than five stories (I never lived in a five-story walk-up in New York so I don't think I'm missing much), but I will try my best to take the stairs whenever possible—a recommendation from Johns.
3. I Will Get Up Often Throughout the Day
"Set an alarm for each hour labeled 'Get Up and Move.' If you have even just a five-minute break, use it to take a quick stroll outside or a loop around the office," Johns suggests. This is where my nagging Apple Watch comes in handy because it tells me throughout the day to stand up and walk around for a little bit.
4. I'm Going to Park Far Away
I won't fight for the parking spot right next to the entrance of my office (or grocery store, shopping mall, restaurant, etc.). This will save me a lot of stress—the struggle for parking is akin to pushing into a crowded subway train during rush hour, but with a lot less human body contact. And I'll get closer to my daily steps goals. "The steps it takes to get from point A to point B throughout the day really add up," Johns says.
Or Uber Eats or Grubhub or DoorDash. You can see where I'm going with this: I won't order delivery during my lunch break. Instead, I'll walk to the lunch spot and I'll try to walk after eating, too. "Leave yourself enough time on your lunch hour to take a stroll after you eat. It helps your digestion, too," says Johns.
I'll use the same idea for my delivery/takeout preferences when I'm at home, too. If I'm ordering from a restaurant that is close to my house, I'll put on pants and walk to pick it up and then continue my Netflix binge.
"Take happy hour on foot. Suggest catching up with your friends while taking an adventure walk somewhere fun instead of getting the gossip in while sitting on your caboose," Johns suggests. Like my walk-and-talk meetings with my colleagues, I'll ask my friends if they want to walk to dinner or a bar nearby. Or I'll suggest a hike or stroll around a park as catch-up time.
Grinceri suggests a 30-second stretch (video above) "to relieve neck, chest, and shoulder tension after sitting at a desk all day." You clasp your hands behind your back, straighten your arms out and pull them back, and push your chest open. As you're doing it, move your head to one side and breathe, and move it to the other side and breathe. Hopefully this can alleviate some of my back and shoulder pain and tension throughout the day.
8. I'm Going to Walk After Work
I foresee this being a big challenge for me—but Grinceri suggests going for a post-work hike, even if it's for 30 minutes. After a long day of work and an even longer commute home, the last thing I want to do is put even more energy into something else. But since it's currently summertime and the days are longer, I will take his advice and adapt it to a stroll around the neighborhood after dinner.
We'll see how I do adapting to my new lifestyle, but for now, I'd love to learn what you do to stay active. If you ever moved from a walking city to a driving city, or vice versa, let me and what you did steps-wise. DM me on @thethirty or @sarahayang on Instagram!
This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to be used in the place of advice of your physician or other medical professionals. You should always consult with your doctor or healthcare provider first with any health-related questions. See our full health disclaimer here.