8 Tips to Walk 10,000 Steps per Day When Flying

Woman checking her steps on watch at airport
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When you're addicted to walking 10,000 steps per day, as recorded on your pedometer or fitness band, you don't want to break your streak because you are flying. Airplanes can trip you up, especially when you factor in changing time zones. What can you do to ensure you get enough exercise on an air travel day and keep your streak alive? And how can you prevent arousing suspicion from security while you're doing it?

Walk at Least 8,000 Steps Before Going to the Airport

You never know what's going to happen when you get to the airport. You could be stuck in the security line for an hour or more. Your flight could be delayed after you board it and you'll be trapped sitting on the tarmac.

Your best bet is to schedule a walking time before you go to the airport. You are probably safe if you log 8,000 before you go to the airport, which is an hour or more of brisk walking. Do your packing the night before travel so you have free time for getting exercise. If you are staying at a hotel, see if they have a treadmill in their fitness center or ask them to suggest a walking/running route close by. Be sure to sync your steps to your app or computer before you go to the airport.

Walking at the Airport

If you know you can't log enough steps before you go to the airport, plan on walking at the airport. It's best to have a light carry-on or a wheeled suitcase that you can easily pack or tow up and down the concourses. If you make it a habit to arrive early in case of security delays, you will often have an hour or more for walking.

You should be able to rack up 5000 to 6000 steps in an hour at an easy but constant pace while walking through the airport.

If you track aerobic steps or exercise minutes, you can even do some brisk walking, especially if you pretend you are trying to make a tight connection. Check the airport map and plan a route.

Remember to put your pedometer or fitness band back on after you take it off to go through security. While most fitness bands will still log steps if in your bag, waistband pedometers may not, and neither may be as accurate as when worn properly. Be sure to sync your steps to your app before you get on the plane.

Walking on Board the Airplane

You won't log many steps on the plane, but you should aim to move for a couple of minutes per hour to lessen your risk of blood clots. If your fitness tracker measures inactivity, you may get alerts to get up and move while on the plane. It's best to book an aisle seat so you can go to the restroom area or bulkhead where there is space to do a little marching in place. You might even plan on booking a seat near an alcove where you can regularly get up, stretch, and do a little walking in place. You can use websites or apps such as SeatGuru.com to choose such seats.

The Fitbit Alta requires 250 steps per hour to keep it happy, while the Apple Watch only wants you to be up and somewhat active for one minute. Be polite and let anybody who is curious know that you are just trying to keep your blood circulating. If the Fasten Seatbelts light is on, don't get up, even if it means you have an inactive hour. Plan on no more than 250 steps per flight hour.

Time Zone Travel Woes

If you are using a fitness tracker with an app, you will see some weird results when you change time zones. Going east, your day is going to get shorter. Going west, it's going to get longer. But it is often unpredictable about while hours will end up getting counted at the end of the day when your tracker syncs. If you made your 10,000 step goal at home or at the airport, sync it with the app before you get on the plane and change time zones. Your best-laid plans to get in your steps each day, let alone any streaks, may come to an end due to the time zone transition.

Layover Steps

A layover is a good chance to log more steps in an airport, and nobody looks askance if you are walking as fast as you can to make a connection. If you're short on aerobic steps, this is a good time to do them. Check the airport maps in the airline magazine for your arrival and departure gates and plan how you'll walk between them. Be sure to sync your steps if you can before you board your next plane.

Obstacles to Walking at Your Arrival Destination

You've arrived! You can get in steps as you deplane and make your way to pick up your luggage and get ground transport. But for international travel, you may face long lines and delays if you have to go through customs and immigration checks. Even within a country, you may have to go through security again when changing terminals. All of this can eat into your planned time to complete your 10,000 steps. A little pacing in small circles or walking in place is possible, but you don't want to arouse suspicion from security, so keep it subtle.

Getting from the airport to home or hotel can also be another bout of sitting time on the train, bus, or auto. It can wreak further havoc on your attempts to move each hour, let alone your total step goal. A train ride gives you the best opportunity to get up and move around a little.

 Plan a Walk at Your Final Destination

If you are short on steps, it's best to plan on walking time as soon as you reach your final destination. If you are meeting friends or family, arrange ahead of time to enjoy a stroll together to work out the kinks after your travel time. It will be good for everyone. Exercise is recommended to help reduce the effects of jet lag. When you get there, get moving!

Hacks to Get to Your Step Goal

If your best-laid plans went awry, you can try some tricks to get to your 10,000 steps per day goal. You can try attaching your pedometer to your shoe or tucking it into your sock and swinging your foot back and forth. You can trick many fitness bands with arm movement. It's easy to move your arms with a forward-and-back motion while seated or when waiting in a line than to try to get up and march in place. On the one hand, it is movement and exercise, but on the other hand, it isn't really "steps." It's a personal choice if you decide on it or try another hack to increase your steps. Just don't tell your Fitbit friends!​

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