The Slice: Why walking 10,000 steps a day has become the new goal
Challenge: If I can walk 10,000 steps a day, can’t I do more? I challenged myself to walk 15,000. It didn’t go as planned …
My dad dropped a bombshell on me recently. He told me that walking 10,000 steps a day is a myth based on a 1960’s pedometer marketing plan in Japan. I didn’t believe him, but when I looked it up, he was right… as always (how is he always right?). While walking 10,000 steps a day can be healthy, it’s not a perfect number. It just means people are walking more than usual (5,900 steps a day on average in the US).
I’ve been working my butt off to get 10,000 steps all these years for what? Could I get away with walking less? Should I motivate myself to walk more?
I decided to find out.
10,000 steps isn’t so hard for me. I’m already moderately active, so it means walking to lunch and taking the stairs. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not running marathons or climbing Mt. Everest; I just walk a little every day.
If I wanted to really challenge myself, I needed step it up (pun intended). I figured 15,000 would do it.
I’ve walked 15,000 steps in a day, but it’s rare. Not “winning lotto ticket rare”, but maybe “found a pair of perfect-fitting jeans” rare. I knew 20,000 would be too challenging, but 15,000 seemed like the porridge that was “just right.”
Preparing for my giant leap for Julia-kind
First things first, you need a way to track your steps. I’m not someone who keeps my phone on me at all times, but if that’s your only option, your smart phone should suffice. Check out how here. I’ve had a Jawbone Up fitness band for about 4 years now, so that’s what I used. If you want to hear my rant about which tracker I prefer, I’ll post about it soon. You can get a Jawbone for crazy cheap on Amazon.
The Buddy System
I wasn’t sure I could go it alone, so I enlisted a buddy. You’ll see I do this a lot for my challenges. I truly think it’s the best way to stay on top of things and keep motivated. In this case, I actually chose an adversary.
My friend Stacy offered to “challenge me to a duel” – a step duel that is. We have the same band so we synched up to see who could get the most steps.
How it all went down
What does 15,000 steps really mean?
Walking gives you lots of time to think. In my case, that meant analyzing my step count to see how much longer I needed to move. I determined that it takes me about 1 minute to walk 100 steps. That means 15,000 would take me 2 and a half hours. Ugh. Even when I accounted for the steps I’d get in my normal activity, I was still looking at about an hour and a half of extra walking. I found myself weighing the value of walking over getting work done. Should I be working on the paper due tomorrow, or walking (probably the paper)? Is there a way to do both at the same time (not really). While 10,000 was an achievable challenge, 15,000 seemed to be less so.
That Duel from Earlier
The duel was both great and at the same time terrible. I was much more motivated to get my steps in, but there were consequences. When I saw that Stacy was winning towards the end, I spent 45 minutes running around the office conference room to catch up – and I never did. Instead, I woke up the next morning with a serious waddle – I was tired and my leg muscles were cramping. Running in small circles around a conference table is not a sustainable model – lesson learned. I ended up not making my goal that day.
Because of my 2nd day slump, I tried to make up for
it by walking 20,000 the next day (21,522 to be precise). It wasn’t a good idea. My legs were beat and the foot cramp I got the day after was not fun.
Also, I couldn’t balance walking 15,000 steps with my daily activities. In order to find time to visit with friends, I ended up spending election night pacing my friend’s living room (but weren’t we all?). I found myself weighing the choices of going to a great spin class or getting a lesser workout (but more steps) by walking. I chose the spinning even though I knew I wouldn’t make my 15,000 step goal.
Challenge Completed – 3 of 5 days
Challenge kicked my butt – all 5 days
Moral: If you have the time to take a walk, do it. You’ll never regret getting those extra calories burned and enjoying some fresh air. But when walking takes over your life and you can’t enjoy little pleasures like seeing friends, working out, or standing normally, it may be time to pause the pedometer and enjoy that moment!
Julia Hubner is YDA’s body contributor. After this week, she’s ready to curl up on the couch with the new season of Gilmore Girls.