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Do you ever wonder why your roommate is jogging in place while watching House of Cards? Do you have friends who talk about getting their steps in? Tracking your steps during the day using a wearable device or app is shockingly motivating.

We asked three students to track their activity over two weeks using the app Moves. Their first week was business as usual. Their second week was about incorporating more activity in whatever ways they wanted: walking extra blocks, taking the stairs, or hitting the gym. The goal was to see how simple changes in their routines added up and what that meant for their mood and behaviors.

“This challenge has honestly changed my outlook on exercise.”

Emily T., second-year undergraduate Saint Mary’s University, Nova Scotia

Distance walked (week)
Active week: 15 mi
Typical week: 7.5 mi

Distance walked (daily avg)
Active week: 2.1 mi
Typical week: 1.1 mi

Number of steps (daily avg)
Active week: 4,822
Typical week: 2,606

Time being active (daily avg)
Active week: 5.5 hrs
Typical week: 32 min

Before

“I don’t consider myself to be an active person. I rarely go to the gym. I do try to walk everywhere I can, like the grocery store or friends’ houses, and I will only take the bus if it is raining, snowing, or extremely cold outside. For my active week I plan to take the stairs instead of the elevator, make it to the gym, and do small exercises at home. My boyfriend is very supportive. I’m up for the challenge!”

How I felt “I was surprised by how little I moved when I had no place to be. When I don’t have class I barely get any exercise!”

After

“I encourage other students to do this challenge because it has honestly changed my outlook on exercise. Before, I dreaded exercise, but now that I see results I’m motivated to keep up my routine. I’m not as intimidated now to go to the gym. Before, I thought I would feel judged. I plan to keep the app Moves, because it motivates me to break my record every day.”

How I felt “Every time after I worked out I felt refreshed and happier. Getting up and getting active made me more productive generally.”

“Seeing my steps is motivating! You want to hit a higher number every time.”

Usama Z., first-year undergraduate University of the Pacific, California

Distance walked (week)
Active week: 30 mi
Typical week: 17 mi

Distance walked (daily avg)
Active week: 4 mi
Typical week: 2.5 mi

Number of steps (daily avg)
Active week: 9,550
Typical week: 6,182

Time being active (daily avg)
Active week: 13 hrs
Typical week: 6.5 hrs

Before

“I use transportation more often than walking because I commute to and from campus. I enjoy being healthy, and this is a nice motivation to not only start thinking about my steps but also eat slightly [healthier]. In my super-powered week, instead of driving to get food (less than half a mile away), or getting in the car to check the mail (less than a block away), I’ll walk. Also, I’ll ask my dad to drop me off farther away from my first class.”

How I felt “This has given me a new perspective on how active I actually am. Now that I see my steps, it’s kind of motivating! You want to hit a higher number every time.”

After

“It doesn’t matter what sort of physical activity you get. As long as you do it routinely, even if it’s just extra walking, you notice, feel, and see the difference. You don’t need a gym membership or fancy exercise equipment; it all starts with a single step. Keeping track of your steps really makes you feel you want to do a little extra to get to that next level. You feel stoked when you beat your personal best.”

How I felt “I’ve had more exams and things to do, but the extra walking did make me feel great! As opposed to saying, ‘Nah, I’m going to work out later anyways; I’ll be dropped off really near class…’ I now say, ‘It’s fine, I’ll walk.’”

“Just 30 minutes a day can change your outlook. I felt amazing.”

Briana J., second-year undergraduate, Midwestern State University, Texas

Distance walked (week)
Active week: 22 mi
Typical week: 18 mi

Distance walked (daily avg)
Active week: 3 mi
Typical week: 2.5 mi

Number of steps (daily avg)
Active week: 8,149
Typical week: 6,603

Time being active (daily avg)
Active week: 2.5 hrs
Typical week: 2 hrs

Before

“I have to drive to work and school because I live far away. The only place I walk is to take out the trash or check the mail. Usually I end up exercising once or twice a week at a private gym. I love to play disc golf and be outdoors, though. For my step-up week I’m going to take the stairs, park farther away, go to the gym, and incorporate 30 minutes of daily activity.”

How I felt “I’ve been stressed out lately. I often find myself ready to take a nap after school. I’m more comfortable being lazy than working out.”

After

“I learned you don’t have to do much to be active. I’m new to weight management and working out, and this helped me ease into it. You don’t have to do extreme things to burn energy. Just 30 minutes a day can change your outlook. Since starting this study, my friends are competing to walk more steps than I am. I plan on trying to get 10,000 steps a day, no matter what I have planned.”

How I felt “My moods have improved the more activity I do each day. I’m happier and I feel energetic.”

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Chelsea Dill, MA, has degrees in creative writing, and English, writing, and mass communications. She has written for digital and print publications in the US and UK. She enjoys wellness lifestyle research and devising healthy alternative cooking.