For many years, the magic number of walking for health, fitness and weight loss was 10,000 steps per day. But it was just marketing, not science, courtesy of a Japanese pedometer company’s promotional campaign that started back in the mid-60’s. A Canadian study shows that it’s just not one size fits all. But obviously if you’re overweight, have health conditions, are used to sitting down all day for work staring at a computer screen, starting with whatever you can do is the best course of action.
For this dude, 10,000 would be a lot. According to that same study, when it comes to walking, I’m fairly average, which in America means sedentary, aka lazy. I’ve been hitting about 3,700 steps per walk of 1.5 miles, and about double that for the rest of the day. The rest of the time, for about 6-7,000. But even when I’m biking, I’m sitting on my kiester. So this week for no apparent reason, I found myself increasing my walks to try to make it 10,000 steps per day when possible. Si se puede.
I began back the daily walking on New Years Day of 2018, and have kept up a regular ambulatory habit for all that time. (I always put an asterisk by that because I did miss a day once I think, but more then made up for it by longer or twice a day walks.) Recently, I was getting closer to hitting 8,000 steps a day, so I asked my self, “Hey, my self, why not pull an Emeril Lagassie, and POW! Kick it up a notch? Make it 10,000!” I don’t really talk that way, or to myself. But if I did, the answer would have come back, “No reason. Go for it, dude!” Here’s a picture with some Garmin screen shots with the proof.
We all know that walking is great for cardiovascular health, bone density, warding off other diseases like diabetes, and getting to know all the weird stuff your neighbors are up to. The thing about it is that while it appears simple, easy and not very exerting, it’s also not easy to make yourself go walk. At the end of a long day, with chores to do, kids to put to bed, etc., the last thing anyone wants is more exercise. But as far as exercises go, it’s got a very low entry fee. Sometimes you need to head out on a path first and figure out if it will work for you later. .
So I just started sprinkling more walking throughout my day. And when it looks like I won’t make it to 10,000 steps, I’ll use the idea of failing to go ahead and make sure that somehow get done. That has taken the form of a late night walk. But last night, I simply ran out of time. It turned midnight and I had not met even the daily adjusted goal. My Garmin Vivoactive 3 Music watch adjusts the goal based on what I did the nights before, on average. Walk more, it goes up. Walk less, it goes down.
And as I recently wrote in Do You Have Fitness Goals? Or Do They Have You?, it is quite possible to overdo it. If you’re at all in tune with and listen to your body, it will tell you “No more, dude! I’ve had enough!” and make you lie down for a tasty siesta. And that’s what’s happening now, so I’m outta here. I’ve got a train to catch to Snoozeville. The red line to nappy time. The 11:15, last stop, shut-eye. I just hope I don’t have to run to make it!
So, if you have a walking practice, and want to do more, consider short walks throughout the day, if weather, job, etc. allow. It might mean early morning, lunch, or giving up scrolling through your phone for a bit. Some study says 30 minutes a day is sufficient to notice health improvements. I haven’t seen the main one I want — weight loss — but I’m sure it’s a good foundational habit to have for life. After all, we are all only temporarily able-bodied, and at some point if we’re lucky enough to live a long time, we’ll be less able to walk. Enjoy it while you can.
As a bonus, you can try walking mindfully, breathing in and breathing out. There is a walking meditation popularized by Thich Nhat Handh, the famous Buddhist teacher and author. It’s best done in a small, safe area, even inside. You don’t want to be too focused on each step with traffic around. The point is, get out there and move your body. Sometimes, it’s fine instead of counting steps, to count something else far more important even (even though I don’t like the word it is the best one): your blessings.
What is your walking practice like? What does it involve?
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