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The Average Person Takes 1,000 Fewer Steps During Quarantine—Here’s How To Close the Movement Gap

Emily Laurence

Emily LaurenceJuly 17, 2020

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Even if weekly spinning classes or walking to work weren’t part of your routine pre-COVID-19, you were likely moving a lot more than you are now. Walking down the street from your office to your favorite chopped salad place to get lunch, taking laps around the grocery store multiple times a week, walking from your car to the various places you’re running errands…it all adds up.

All of this is why it’s, unfortunately, not all that surprising that the average person is getting fewer steps during quarantine than before the pandemic. Researchers from 23andMe looked at iPhone and Apple Watch activity data from 33,000 people and found that the average person is getting 1,000 steps a day less now than before the pandemic. “It really comes down to the small everyday things,” said Teresa Filshtein Sonmez, Ph.D., a 23andMe research biostatistician, in a press release announcing the data. “All the small everyday physical actions we take add up.”

Of course, regular movement is crucial for health and well-being, from managing stress and anxiety, improving cognition, supporting cardiovascular health, improving posture and mobility, and more. And while the 10K steps a day true-ism has long been debunked, moving every single day (which is easily trackable with steps) is still important. So if you’re looking for ideas for how to get more steps during quarantine, we asked some experts to share easy ways to close that 1,000 step gap.

How to get more steps during quarantine

1. Have a mid-day dance party

Putting on a playlist of your favorite tunes and dancing around the house just may be the most fun way to get more steps into your day. Lauren Pufpaf, the founder of Feed.fm, which matches music to different workout intensities, says just five minutes of dancing equals out to 1,000 steps. “Put on a YouTube channel or try an online class like Dance Church where you can join others dancing with light instruction and inspiration and you’ll quickly blow out your step goals before you know it,” she says.

2. Play tag with your kids

If you’re a parent, your kids can really get you moving. Pufpaf says that chasing around a child is about 100 steps per minute. That means doing it for just 10 minutes equals out to 1,000 steps. “Being a working mom, I’ll do sprints and play running games with my toddler and it’s a win-win because it tires us both out,” she says.

3. Walk while you work

SoulCycle master instructor Maddy Ciccone likes taking a walk when she’s on a work call whenever possible. “It helps my brain stay alert and and keeps the creative juices flowing,” she says, citing a benefit that goes beyond step count. Walking at a moderate speed for just 10 minutes evens out that 1K goal. (Don’t forget to wear your mask when you’re out, though!)

4. Start a little friendly competition

Have a competitive streak? Challenge your partner, a family member, or friend to a little virtual competition to see who hits the higher step goal for the month. If you both have an Apple Watch, you can actually do the competition right through your app. You may find yourself volunteering to be the one to go pick up the takeout or take out the trash.

5. Set an alarm to move every hour

This is a little tip certified personal trainer and group fitness instructor Melissa Yan tells her clients. “It doesn’t have to be long, just five minutes,” she says. “Give yourself give minutes to stand up, stretch, and move.” Hallway runs, jumping jacks, going up and down the stairs…On average, you’ll rack up roughly 600 steps in each give minutes segment, so by the end of the day, you’ll be above and beyond that 1,000 step goal.

6. When possible, walk while running your errands

Reminder: Little busts of movement add up! “Would you normally drive four minutes to someplace you could you walk, even bike?” Yan asks. “Find local errands that could be turned in to an opportunity for exercise. Take the kids and dog too! I know we’re cutting down on the trips and visits, so let’s make the most of them. Park in the back of the lot. Step-touch while you wait in line, don’t just stand there. After unloading, return the cart to the store rather than leaving it in the parking lot.” As the 23andMe data showed, it’s really the loss of those little errands that counts for that 1,000 step loss. This is a great way to make it up.

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