How to Walk 10,000 steps a day (with little ones underfoot)

I’m a believer. 20 days into our Walk-a-thon and I’m convinced I’ve unlocked the secret to maintaining – and achieving – a more reasonable weight and shape than perpetual-post-partum-pachyderm. While I still have 10 days to go before I can lay claim to my prize (I’m coming for you, darling) I thought I’d share some practical tips with y’all for what has worked for me during this little lifestyle shift.

First things first: wear your pedometer (or your iPhone with the free pacer app, if you’re cheap like me) from the moment you wake until the last minute before you flop into bed. I cannot stress enough how incredibly motivating it is to see those steps adding up…or how easy it is to see that you’re just 2,000 or so short of your 10K goal and then make the not-entirely ridiculous decision to drag your laptop out to the back deck, prop it open to an episode of Parenthood on Amazon Prime, and spend the next 20 minutes stepping up and down the 2-stair elevation of said deck while enjoying a little veg out time. Ahem.

Steps are steps though, you get what I’m saying?

In the morning, I try to make a mental list of what things I’d like to accomplish on the housekeeping and errand running front, and which of those might possibly be adaptable to a pedestrian approach. For example, yesterday we had some library books to return and, since our library is less than 2 miles away, I loaded up the double stroller, strapped a baby to my chest and set off with high hopes and huge ambitions. Now, granted, a nearly 4-mile roundtrip with 3 bodies in tow is kind of unrealistic. And it was. We ended up making it no further than a neighborhood park before the sun and the whining robbed me of my ability to persevere, but we did still rack up an impressive 4,000 steps before 10 am and the kids got to play at the park.

Like good red-blooded Americans we later drove the 6 minutes to the library, but we did park in the furthest spot in the lot. I also like to bring the stroller in as a single and push Evie around through the stacks while the boys enjoy the ridiculously overdone kiddie area. Bada boom bada bing, 800 more steps for me.

Once the child herd goes down for quiet time/naps I look at my accumulation for the day and decide whether a trip to the gym is in order. If it’s a day my mother’s helper comes, I run out for a 40 or 50 minute treadmill trek while she holds down the fort. I’ve been trying to make better use of her presence in our lives by scheduling restorative activities for mommy during her visits, rather than simply cramming as many loads of laundry/trips to TJ’s/minutes of scrubbing toilets as possible. I can clean with the kids around me, after all, but I can’t always write, answer emails, go to Adoration or simply chill out with a novel in my hands. Priorities. Plus, I’d way rather be paying someone to let me relax or get meaningful work done than to simply free me up to do housework. Which is meaningful! But not in quite the same way.

Usually by the time late afternoon rolls around I’m sitting at somewhere around 6,000 steps if I haven’t gone to the gym and 9,000 steps if I have. Taking this into account, I’ll strap the baby back on if she’s awake) and make a very, very inefficient sweep through the house, picking up toys and clothing articles one at at time and walking them to their respective homes. This can earn me another 300-600 steps if I play my cards right.

Now it’s dinner prep time. If something is in the crockpot or already cooking, it’s a perfect time for us to load up for a quick evening walk to the park, where I can practice my mother shark circling skills around the play structures or even walk up and down the hill behind the soccer field, still close by and able to keep my eyes on the kids while they play. This particular technique is a favorite because it basically guarantees immunity from helicopter motherhood. And yet, you can still hear a skull hit the gravel and be at someone’s side in under 60 seconds if need be. Win, win.

Some other step-generating activities:

Become a pedestrian in your neighborhood, whether residential or commercial. If you’re stuck in an office all day like my husband is, use your lunch break to walk to a nearby park to eat in, or better yet, eat at your desk and then spend the entire hour walking the neighborhood surrounding your building, looking for a not-too-close coffee shop to call your own.

Do you have a grocery store within a mile or so of your house? You can walk there, yes you can. It sounds crazy, but if you think about it, it’s not as crazy as hopping in the car for one or two items missing from your dinner prep list. Obviously I’m not recommending you try to do your weekly stock-up shopping on foot, but if you’ve got a need for a gallon or two of milk, there’s no good reason not to walk over there and get it.

This is a HUGE difference between Americans and Europeans. Even Romans we knew with their own cars would never drive such a short distance, unless the weather was truly horrendous or they were physically infirm. True, gas is much more expensive there and parking much more dear, but beyond that there really is more of a culture of pedestrianism (is that a real word) that helped to make neighborhoods much more humane and friendly places. You literally interacted with your neighbors every day, because you walked right by them.

Does your kid play sports? Do you have to watch them practice? Attend games? You know where I’m going with this. If they’re playing on a field, chances are there’s a track surrounding them, or at least grassy space where you can pace the sidelines like a psychopath, racking up steps while they rack up goals.

Finally, try walking dates with friends and with your spouse. If that sounds really lame for an actual date, consider a pub crawl or a progressive dinner where you park and then walk from place to place. You’d be surprised how pleasant an after dinner (or between courses) stroll can be.

Do all these suggestions sound like more work and more planning than you’re willing to spend?

Consider this: in the past 20 days, changing little other than my walking habits, I’ve lost close to 4 lbs, dropped an entire pant size, had noticeable thinning in my arms, legs and face, and been told by multiple friends and family members that I look like I’ve lost *all* my baby weight. Ha. Not true, not by a long shot…but my body looks and feels so much better for all the movement! And on days when I’m really intentional about planning for walking, I don’t have to think about finding the time and energy to get to the gym. So, to review: weight loss, more time with my kids, less time in the gym, and better overall health.

I’ll walk to that.

(10,000 steps per day is a kind of arbitrary recommended amount for optimal health, and works out to somewhere between 4 and 5 miles, depending upon stride length)


  • Kelly Halverson

    I want to know if the 10,000 steps a day includes a workout or not? I run in the morning and I wonder if I need to run and do 10,000 steps a day or if the run counts towards the step total.

    Good for you!!

  • rueschmike

    Wow, the Lord works in mysterious ways. I’ve been a long troll of your blog and just today I signed up for my company’s 2 month steps/walking program, then I come to your blog and lo and behold you are talking about your walking program… God is Good.

  • Brittney

    This is so great! I have totally noticed a difference in losing the baby weight this time around. We live in LA and don’t have a car (aside: this is practically unheard of and people are literally dumbfounded when we tell them). If I can’t make it to my gym class at 6 am (shudder) I strap the kids into the double to do my 3.5 mile loop. The toddler tends to cooperate on such a long haul since the park is on the way home. I also do all of my quick grocery/PO/library/playdates on foot. People thing we’re crazy but it definitely keeps me much more active. Keep on keeping on…those jeans are within reach! 😉

  • [email protected]

    I CANNOT believe you wrote this post today. I LITERALLY just pulled out my pedometer two days ago and have been trying to collect my 10,000 each day. Twilight Zone. Or, just completely normal. But, I like to think this is a crazy coincidence. Like, I am supposed to be doing this!

    Anyway, enough of my crazy. Let me give you all of the boring details: the first day I did nothing different than I would normally do. I drove places, didn’t really get out of the house much at all actually, and just kind of took it easy. 5,000 steps. No good. So, yesterday I made an effort to get the 10,000. It required walking a mile at the gym, sweeping the house for toys, not asking Mike to do me favors by grabbing this or that, parking further away, and finally, marching in place while I brushed my teeth for the night.

    Today, I had it on again, but I took it off when I went into the public bathroom at the grocery store (juggling kids and toilets and things falling in). I forgot to put it back on, so now I am more bummed than I should be because HOW MANY STEPS did I take at the grocery store? I’m calling it 1,000 (BIG store) and moving on.

    Oh also, to make myself feel super DUPER good, I have been using one of those graduated water bottles from the hospitals (30 oz) and drinking two a day.

    Numbers make me better.

  • Kate

    You’ve almost got me to bite, Jenny. What tips do you have for keeping your phone on you all day? I know you mentioned stuffing it in your bra once. Is that how you roll when you don’t have pockets?

  • Mia Jude

    You’ve inspired me to take my FitBit out of the packaging (that I got over a year ago as a birthday gift). I have to agree that walking really does wonders! After I gave birth to my first, all I did was walk and I changed very little to my diet and the weight fell off. I ended up 10 lbs less than my pre pregnancy weight! I am now 8 months post partum and I have about 6 lbs to go to get back to that weight. And pushing that double stroller should give us an automatic extra 1000 steps! Whew! What a workout after pushing that thing!

  • Camille

    You’ve totally inspired me to pick my FitBit back up and start counting steps. At about 3,000 right now and thinking I need to take a walk around the neighborhood today!

    • Camille

      I found the key to a successful Saturday of steps – purging the basement. Over 15,000 today and I think I’ll be feeling it tomorrow. Thanks again for the inspiration to get back to counting steps!

  • Sheelah

    Wow. [email protected] just commented on my most recent post, which is pretty much exactly like this, and said I need to check you out. Sounds like we are most definitely on the same wavelength this week! Nice to “meet” you 🙂 -signed, walking around the house with the iPhone. 🙂

  • Rosie

    I had a pedometer once for a school competition and it NEVER measured my steps accurately, it made me so angry! I’d like, walk two miles and spend an entire day walking around the classroom while teaching and I’d end up with like, 3000 steps. I seriously distrust those pedometers…

  • Lea Singh

    One of your suggested solutions has been working for me: one of our local parks has a playground that is literally circled by a sidewalk. I let the children play while I go around about a zillion times, breaking into a productive sweat. Love it!

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