Hello my name is Jennifer and I’m addicted to my daily step count. Also, I don’t walk 10,000 steps every day.
Phew! That’s 2 big confessions out of the way. I really do like to note how many steps I’ve taken, though. Not because there’s any evidence to say 10,000 is the goal (it’s somewhat falsely attributed to a Japanese study in the 1960's) and truthfully, no one really knows where that number springs from. I count my steps just because I like to beat my Garmin goal (this is not an advert for Garmin, promise, other watches are available!)
If we look at how many steps a day our ancestors took as hunters and gatherers, we probably covered about 19 miles per day (for reference, 10,000 steps is roughly 5 miles). We are built to go as far as we need to find food, but to expend no more energy than is necessary. Which is one reason we are unfortunately in the midst of a pandemic of ill health due largely to obesity. We don’t move as much as we should (averaging roughly 2,500 steps per day) and we largely eat more than we need (without having to hunt for it).
Walking is just one of those fantastic forms of exercise you can do to help keep healthy. Easy to access, free, companionable (or not, if you choose). Walking can be exciting or calming, energetic or relaxing. You can reduce your risk of heart attack or stroke by 31% if you go for regular walks (New Yorker, 20 May 2013, p.46). And being active for an hour or more every day can increase your life expectancy by more than 4 years (Bryson, 2019).
But how can you measure how successful you are with your walking?
Well, as the blog is entitled, you can count your daily steps. You could start by aiming for an elusive 10,000 steps a day. Alternatively, just trying to average more per week than you did the week before.
Or you could even time a short walk around your neighbourhood or your place of work. And then try to go a little farther, or finish a little faster than before. All of these ideas are a good place to start.
How much is enough? Well, it's recommended that adults do roughly 150 minutes per week of moderately intense exercise (www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise). That’s about half an hour of walking where you have enough breath to talk (but not sing) on 5 days of the week.
My goal today (as I check my watch) is 9410 steps. I have a clever little gadget that increases my goal by a small percentage each time I achieve the steps set. It also decreases if I don’t make it, which is handy on days where I’m not feeling tiptop. So far, I’ve done just under 2000, and most of that has been at work and moving around the house.
So I’m off for a walk to enjoy some late summer sun!
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