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A Nurse's Advice to Tackling 10,000 Steps a Day

October 2, 2017


Marsha Haugen says she hasn’t missed a day of reaching 10,000 steps since March 15, 2016. The 63-year-old, UnityPoint Health nurse and palliative care navigator says it hasn’t always been an easy task, but she’s found ways to stick with it. 

“My personality is that if I skip a day, I will have an excuse not to do it,” Haugen says. “It’s like going on a diet and eating a cookie. Once you give in, then you’re done. I’m afraid if I don’t do it one day, it’ll be much easier not to do it the rest of the days.”

Haugen says her journey toward a healthier lifestyle started with her team at UnityPoint Health. 

“In the beginning of 2016, we all decided we wanted to do something to lose weight. We committed to a long-term project from January to May with weekly weigh-ins. A few people had Fitbits, and I didn’t have one. I realized I needed a device because it holds me accountable,” Haugen says.

Haugen purchased her first fitness tracker in February. The first few weeks she had it, she would hit the 10,000 steps goals here and there. But, on March 15, 2016, she hit the mark and hasn’t missed a day since. She says the weight challenge came and went, but she kept stepping.

“I love that it syncs to my phone, and I can see the stars pop-up with my achievements. I haven’t missed a single day, not even the holidays,” Haugen says.

While she gets some steps during her workday, she admits sometimes she’s had to get creative to get them all in by the time midnight comes around. 

“I have been down to the wire sometimes, especially when I’m on the road. If it’s a travel day in the car, I walk every opportunity I get. If my husband’s getting gas, I’m doing circles around the gas station. I’ve had times where I’ve gotten to a hotel, and I haven’t had any supper. I would tell my husband to check into the hotel while I went to a treadmill. We’d also find a restaurant we could walk there and walk back,” Haugen says.

One thing Haugen credits for being able to keep up with her steps goals is her family.
“My husband is super supportive. If we are going someplace and I’m ready to go, I’ll start walking and tell him to pick me up along the route. Or, I’ll have him drop me off and I’ll walk the rest of the way home. I have done simple things like park far away or do an extra loop around the mall while my husband is waiting,” Haugen says.

Rain or shine, snow or ice, you’ll find Haugen strapping on her shoes. She has a gym membership and a treadmill, but she says she enjoys being outdoors walking the most. Haugen admits all the fresh air and exercise has boosted her mental health. The walking, along with changes to her eating habits, has also helped her keep the weight off that she lost last year. While Haugen enjoys the work, she admits there is one downside she’s noticed since beginning her journey.

“Getting in 10,000 steps takes enough time that it closed off the ability to try other physical activities, so in that sense, it’s somewhat limiting,” Haugen says.

However, Haugen says walking works for her lifestyle, since a prior injury doesn’t allow her to run. If you want to try getting 10,000 daily steps, Haugen’s big piece of advice is to plan ahead from the very beginning of the day. 

“Think about how you are going to add steps, without feeling like you have to go walk five miles. I know my neighborhood really well. I can tell you which circle has 300 steps and which block has 1,500 steps. I know them all because I’ve done it so many times,” Haugen says.

After hitting the one-year mark in March 2017, Haugen had already logged 4.17 million steps. She and her work friends celebrated with a big cookie. While her initial goal was to make it to one year of 10,000 daily steps, she doesn’t plan to stop anytime soon.

“I haven’t really been sick, I think that’s the only thing that would stop me. Now that I’ve made it beyond the one-year mark, anything past that is just frosting on the cake,” Haugen says.


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