Take a brisk 15-minute walk with your workmates at lunch and you're halfway to your daily fitness quotient.

7 Ways to Sneak a Walk into Your Day

When your schedule is packed from the moment you turn off the alarm to the moment you crawl back in bed, exercise is often pushed aside. But that’s not good for your physical or mental health. In fact, many doctors advise their patients to treat exercise as a “prescription” to be taken as seriously as any other medical treatment.

And the simplest, easiest way to meet your fitness goals is to walk. If you can manage a half-hour of brisk walking five days a week, you’re fulfilling the recommendations of the American Heart Association.

And walking still has great benefits even in smaller increments. Two brisk 15-minute walks or three 10-minute walks are just as effective at building strength and stamina – and burning calories – as one 30-minute walk, studies show.

So what to do when your to-do list crowds out fitness goals? Get creative! No need to head for the hills; you’d be surprised how many ways there are to fit walking into your day. Try these time-saving strategies:

1. Add walking to your daily routine. Walk your kids to school or to the bus stop complete all or part of your commute on foot.

2. Got 10 minutes in between meetings? Stroll through the corridor or step outside for a brisk walk around your building — it counts!

3. Use the stairs. Take stairs whenever possible. When you reach your floor, go back down and do one more circuit… two if you can. In stores, trade escalators for stairs; in airports skip the moveable ramps.

4. Infuse part of your breaks at work with a short walk. Walk for 10 minutes during your morning break, 10 minutes at lunch time, and 10 minutes in the afternoon. Even better, get a few work mates walking with you.

5. Walk between stores instead of driving, or walk between stores when you have several errands to run. For an added bonus, park at the far end of the parking lot so you have further to go.

6. Take a stroll after dinner with a friend or family member.

7. Enjoy your favorite sit-com or drama while walking on the treadmill. As the sun sets earlier and nights get colder, treadmill workouts can keep you on the go when the weather doesn’t cooperate. 

Melanie Haiken writes about health, wellness and fitness for national magazines and websites. She specializes in discovering and reporting the latest research on diet, nutrition, fitness, weight loss and other health-related topics. Her award-winning stories have appeared in Fitness, Shape, Health, Forbes, and other respected magazines. She also contributes health stories to numerous Kaiser Permanente newsletters and other publications.