10 Ways to Get Your Steps (Without Having to Brave the Elements)

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When the sun is shining and the temperatures are a mild 68 degrees, achieving step goals isn’t such a big deal.  We want to be outside when the weather is nice.  Getting outside for a walk is a pleasurable experience.  Our friends are happy to meet up with us.  Our spouses might join us for a stroll after dinner.  Even our kids might be willing to pull themselves away from YouTube for a while to spend some time outside. 

When the weather isn’t quite so pleasant, however…that’s when it becomes more of a challenge to get those steps in.  Our friends and family members suddenly come up with all kinds of excuses for canceling walking plans.  Even those of us who really love to get up and walk each day may feel less than motivated when it’s cold or rainy or just plain nasty outside. 

Here in my part of the Midwest, we rarely see the sun from November until maybe April.  The weather is dreary and depressing—with a side of freezing-cold sometimes thrown in for fun.  Sometimes, it snows—but, more often than snow, we get sleet.  This is not my favorite time to walk.  But, of course, there are other less-than-ideal weather conditions to consider, too.  Like rainy spring days or sweltering summer afternoons.  These are the times when it would be so much easier to curl up on the couch with a coffee and a good book—which means that these are the times when disciplined, determined walkers need to think of creative ways to boost their daily step counts.

Here are some options to help you get your steps when the weather makes it hard (or impossible) to go for a walk outside.

1) Hit the treadmill.
If you just happen to have a treadmill in your basement, like I do, this Plan B is a no-brainer.  Walking on a treadmill inside the house—and not actually going anywhere or seeing anything new—isn’t the most exciting way to go, but it works in a pinch.  It’s pretty convenient, too.  You don’t have to worry about layering your clothes for the weather.  You don’t even have to leave the house.  You can just turn on the TV and binge-watch a new series—or pop in your headphones and listen to a book, a podcast, or your favorite walking playlist.

Don’t have a treadmill?  A simple walking pad is a great place to start!  They don’t take up a lot of space, they’re often foldable for easy storage, and they’re affordable, too!  (Take a look at this one on Amazon)

2) Head to the gym.
If you’ve got a gym membership—or you have a friend with a gym membership and a guest pass—this is a great way to get some exercise on a rainy/snowy/generally unpleasant day.  This could mean hopping on the treadmill (or, better yet, finding side-by-side treadmills, so you can chat with your gym buddy), or—if your gym has one—on an indoor track.  Like walking on the treadmill in your basement, these indoor options can feel a little monotonous.  But they get the job done.

Don’t have a gym membership?  Check to see if your local gym or community center offers day passes.  Our local rec center has a pool and a gym—and a walking track—that I can visit for just $8 for the day.  I’m lucky that my daughter is friends with a walking buddy’s daughter—so we can pick up day passes for four, and the girls can swim while we walk.  It’s win-win!  Or, if you think you might need a regular backup plan, look into basic gym packages. 

3) Be a mall walker.
Remember when you were a kid, when you’d go and hang out at the mall with your friends, and you’d laugh at the old ladies who kept power-walking past?  As it turns out, those old ladies were on to something.  Malls offer a nice, big indoor track for absolutely free (not counting the money you spend when you pop inside a store to buy that cute sweater that you keep seeing in the window as you pass). 

When my walking friends and I need a break from the winter weather—or an indoor backup plan on a rainy day—we meet up at a nearby mall for a walk.  And we’re never alone.  Malls may not be as busy as they once were, but that’s not a bad thing for mall walkers—because it means that you won’t have to weave in and out of traffic nearly as much as you would have had to do back in the ‘80s.

Some malls offer special mall walking clubs—with discounts for walkers.  Some open their doors early to allow walkers some extra quiet time.  So do a little research before you head out for a mall walk.

4) Go shopping.
You don’t have to hop on a treadmill or power walk through the mall to get some extra steps.  You can get those steps by strolling through your favorite stores.  Instead of placing that Instacart order, get out of the car and shop for your own groceries.  Instead of ordering online, head to Target or Walmart or even your local mall to shop for food…or clothes…or a birthday present for your niece. 

Just keep in mind that pushing a cart may mess with your step count if you’re wearing a fitness tracker—so you might want to choose a shopping basket or even wear your tracker on your shoe.

5) Get cultured.
Not in the mood for a treadmill or a shopping trip?  Visit a museum or aquarium or other local attraction.  You can get in out of the rain (or cold), and you can learn a thing or two while getting some extra steps!  Of course, you probably won’t be power-walking through the local art museum (just like you won’t be power-walking through Target—unless you’re trying to be the first to get a new Stanley cup), so you won’t be working up a sweat, but you’ll be up and moving and getting your steps in instead of sitting on the couch—and that’s what matters.

6) Make a call.
Haven’t talked to your BFF in a while?  Pick up the phone for a walk and talk!  I know…I know…nobody talks on the phone anymore.  But not only will it give you a chance to really get caught up (because, let’s be honest here: most of us communicate with our friends through random texts about our kids and the occasional silly meme), it’ll also give you an excuse to get up and do some laps around the living room while you talk.  You’ll have such a great time chatting with your friend that you’ll be surprised how many steps you get in the process.

7) Set an alarm.
If the thought of walking lap after lap around the house until you get your steps in makes you want to cry, break it up into smaller, more manageable chunks!  My watch will buzz me if I haven’t been up and moving for a while, but you can also set an alarm to go off every hour or two to remind you to get up and move.  Take some time to do a few extra laps around the house or the office while you check your email on your phone and refill your water.  Not only will a little bit of extra movement help you clear some of the fog out of your brain, but you’ll get some extra steps throughout the day, too!

8) Mix fitness and pleasure.
Who said that you actually need to be moving from one place to another while you get your steps in?  Walking in place counts, too!  Instead of curling up on the couch while you watch some TV (or a movie) at night, get up and walk in place!  You’ll be distracted by your favorite characters and their latest adventures, and you’ll get those extra steps at the same time!

9) YouTube and walk!
Did you know that there are some great walking workouts just free for the watching on YouTube?  I’ve tried out a number of different options (like this one), and I can tell you that there’s something for everyone—no matter your fitness level, musical preferences, or workout style.  There are all kinds of options that revolve around walking in place to help you get those steps when hitting the trail just isn’t an option. 

10) Create your own trail.
If you’re missing the trail on a rainy day, create your own through your house or office!  Just like you’d map out a new trail outdoors, you can do the same thing indoors—just on a smaller scale.  Set up silly landmarks (like a picture or a stuffed animal) or obstacles to walk around to keep it fun.  And if you want to add an extra challenge, include some stairs on your path.  And be sure to listen to some upbeat music to keep you moving.

If you’re used to getting up every day, getting outside, and breathing in some fresh air on your daily walk, it can definitely be frustrating when the weather doesn’t cooperate.  Cabin fever is no joke!  But with a little creativity, you can still get up and get moving every day.  Try some of these ideas, and mix them up to keep your indoor days from getting too dull and monotonous.  Who knows…after a while, you may look forward to changing up with an indoor day!

What about you?  What are your favorite ways to get steps indoors?


Kristin has been hitting the trail (or the treadmill) for a walk almost every day for the past several years, and she recently completed her first half marathon. She loves sunny fall days, cushy walking shoes, and coconut caramel iced coffee from Dunkin.

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