A Guide to Help Step It Up!

Can not find time to schedule in your steps? Then just STEP in your schedule! Physical activity is one of the most important things we can do to improve our health. However, finding time to incorporate an exercise regime into a daily schedule can often be a challenge. To gain some health benefits, simply increase your number of daily steps and make them more intentional and brisk! The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans defines baseline activity as light‐intensity activities of daily life. So start by simply increasing walking steps into your baseline activity. Using a pedometer will help you determine your average baseline steps, allow you to set a personal goal to increase your daily steps and also help to monitor your progress.

Proper Pedometer Placement

To ensure the most accurate step count

  • Secure the pedometer snug against your waist at hip level (aligned directly over your knee see picture below).
  • Be sure the pedometer is not hanging at an angle, from a pocket or any other loose item of clothing.
  • Test for Accuracy The 20 Step Test Reset the pedometer to 0 Walk around (count out 20 steps)
  • Check the number of steps on the display (without taking the pedometer off) If the display reads between 18 and 22 steps, your pedometer is working correctly If the display reads more or less, move the pedometer to a different spot on your waist and repeat the test

Increase Your Daily Steps

How Many Steps are Enough? The average American takes about 5,500 steps per day; the recommendation for good health is 10,000 daily steps. Where do you fall?

  • More than 12,500 Highly Active
  • 10,000-12,499 Active
  • 7,500-9,999 Somewhat Active
  • 5,000-7,499 Low Active
  • 5,000 Sedentary

Simple Ways to Increase Your Steps

  • Get active with your family, co‐workers and friends
  • Park a little further away Walk (do not drive) to the store to buy just a few things
  • Walk for 10 minutes during your lunch break
  • Use the stairs, pass up elevators and escalators
  • Walk your kids to school
  • Get a dog, they need to be walked
  • Move (get up and walk) during TV commercials
  • Walk to a further bus stop (or get off the bus 1 stop earlier and walk the remaining distance)
  • Walk around while you are talking on the phone
  • Hide your TV remote, change channels the old‐fashioned way

Keeping track of your daily steps

  • Pedometer Activity Log
  • Find Your Baseline Average To find out what your current baseline average is, wear the pedometer for a minimum of 3 days (preferably for 1 week).
  • Make at least one of the days a non‐working day (e.g., Thurs, Fri, Sat)
  • Reset your pedometer each morning
  • Put on your pedometer after getting dressed in the morning and wear it all day long
  • To get a true baseline, try not to alter your normal activity level (do no do more than you usually do)
  • Record your total number of steps at the end of each day.
  • Add the total steps from each day together and divide that number by the number of days you recorded: Record this number in the BASELINE AVERAGE box.

Increase Your Steps

Continue wearing your pedometer while trying to incorporate new ways to increase your daily steps. To find your new daily average, use your pedometer for 4 weeks. For each week, add your total steps from each day together and divide that number by the total days you recorded (Record this number in the NEW DAILY AVERAGE box). After week 4, compare your NEW DAILY AVERAGE to your BASELINE AVERAGE. Did you improve your daily number of steps?


  • Tudor‐Locke et al. (2008). Revisiting ‘‘How Many Steps Are Enough?’’ MSSE, 40(7 Supple): S537‐43; Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans U.S. Dept. Health &
  • Human Services www.health.gov/paguidelines; New Lifestyles
Lindsay, A. 2009, Using a Pedometer, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno

Learn more about the author(s)


Also of Interest:

How to leverage your state's land grant Extension system: Partnering to promote physical activity.
The purpose of this manuscript is to describe Extension and provide case studies on physical activity promotion within this setting.
Harden, S., Gunter, K., Lindsay, A. R. 2018, Translational Journal of the American College of Sports Medicine 3(15):113-118
Field assessment for obesity prevention in children and parents: Physical activity, fitness and body composition.
This report will assist educators in identifying and selecting appropriate field-based assessments for measurement of PA, physical fitness, and body composition for children and adults. Specific guidelines, references, and resources are given for selecting assessment methods and ...
Lindsay, A., Hongu, K., Spears, K., Dyrek, A. & Manore, M. 2014, Journal of Nutrition Education Behavior 46 (1):43-53. doi: 10.1016/j.jneb.2013.03.013
Breathing Exercises for Stress Reduction
This fact sheet lists out several breathing exercises for anyone to reduce stress.
Huluwazu, P. and Daugherty, W. 2001, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno, FS-01-61

Associated Programs

Kids and leader dancing with colored scarves in a classroom

Healthy Kids Resource Center

A one-stop shop for evidence-based research, resources, curricula, activities and materials that focus on obesity prevention for teachers and parents of young children. It is designed to educate parents and teachers as well as provide the tools needed to teach young children how to live a healthy lifestyle.

girl hula hooping

Healthy Kids - Physical Activity Toolbox

The toolkit will assist parents, child care providers and teachers with integrating physical activity throughout each day and providing programming that helps children meet age-level physical activity recommendations.