Skinny Daily Post


I visited the folks at the Better Life Institute, an organization in Grand Rapids, Michigan, which designs and delivers health education programs for companies and individuals and for our town. After touring their offices, I was on my way out when the marketing director handed me a BLI-branded pedometer. A gift.

Well, she didn’t hand it to me. She opened the box, programmed it, and clipped it to my belt.

That made the pedometer a little hard to ignore. I’ve been meaning to look at pedometers for a really long time. My intention was to do a bunch of research to discover which brands people considered to be the best, try one or two of them, and write about that. Because I’m an artifact snob, I like my toys to be designed well and to function well and to have an excellent user interface, not to mention brand appeal to impress my friends and neighbors. So I’ve been putting this off until I have more time, more cash.

But here I was with an inexpensive little thing stuck to my middle, walking back to my office. I wore it for the rest of the day. I wore it the next day, when I didn’t take a walk at all. I wore it the day after that, when I wrote all day against deadlines. I have discovered something.

I am about as animated as a lichen. No wonder I grew so big. No wonder I can eat so little without gaining weight!

Holy cow. I mean, I’ve admitted to my natural inertia several times in the past, but I had no idea how much more still I am than the average bear. I’m not delusional. I know I’m slow-moving. I always check the “inactive” box when using those calorie estimators. I get that I live from couch to car to chair to bed. Okay. Except for my exercise classes and my jogging, I am inert. I know, I know.

There is this 10,000 steps recommendation we’ve been reading about from practically every fitness and weight management resource, community action plan and local health organization I have encountered during the past year. It seems that while a half hour of exercise over and above our regular daily activity is recommended to everyone on the planet, that isn’t necessarily enough exercise to help lose weight or maintain a significant weight loss. It depends on how active you are naturally. We know from the National Weight Control Registry that it takes more than 300 minutes of exercise per week to do the hard work of massive wieght loss and maintenance we do here at

So the researchers behind these pedometer programs recommend we slowly work up to 10,000 steps a day. I’ve been reading this for months, and thinking, “How sweet,” while believing that my exercise program puts me way beyond a mere 10,000 steps, that my elliptical miles, treadmill miles, jogging miles put me in another class entirely. An athletic class. Not a class of walkers. Right? Sure.

At, Dr. Koop’s website, I read that most adults average around 3,000 steps in their day without even trying. Just taking care of business, meeting and greeting, getting through the day.

But not me. With this pedometer strapped to me I find that on days when I’m not walking or jogging two or three miles? I get in about 700 steps. Less than 1,000. Less than normal. Fewer than human. I’m motionless. With my regular walking in, I get fewer than 7,000 steps. So that silly little recommendation to get in 10,000 steps? That would be a reach for me on my big workout days.

If I were a hospital nurse or a mail carrier or a meter reader or a line cook in a restaurant, I might get my 10,000 steps in during the course of my workday. But as a chair occupier, my time on my feet and moving must be stuffed in between meetings, before and after work, on my lunch hours.

I’m stunned by this. I’m deeply impressed by the simplicity and genius of this program. You can’t imagine your way around the number on your belt. I have come to believe that every man, woman, and child should be fitted with an inexpensive step-counting pedometer. Or better, if we could develop a subcutaneous one, so it can’t ever be lost or removed. These little machines tell you how your day is going. If, like me, you’ve lost your entire day to your computer, the machine will tell you to bust a move (It’s 11:30 a.m., and I have 15 steps on my pedometer. Ummm.).

The folks at and recommend tracking your average steps for a few days and then working at adding 500 steps more per day per week, working your way up to a more active lifestyle.

Well, dang it. I will if you will.

Increasing your steps today,

10,000 steps at

21 thoughts on “10,000 Steps?

  1. Debbi says:

    Okay, JuJu. I put it back on. I’ve had a pedometer for several months, wore it faithfully the first couple weeks I had it and then put it down. I didn’t log my steps, but recall coming close to 10,000 steps per day *if* I:

    1. Took a four-mile intentional walk AND
    2. Walked to the post office and back (1.6 miles)

    Wearing the pedometer made me conscious of the amount of daily activity (or lack of it) I achieved. When I don’t wear it, I don’t think about it. The one I have, from Target, is a little … um … obtrusive, stuck to my waist and rattling when I walk.

    But I guess that’s a good thing.


  2. Dana says:

    Such a timely post for me! I just got my first pedometer last week and am having fun playing around with it. Mine has several “modes” and can calculate distance (when an accurate stride is programmed in), calories, time, and of course, step. I am realizing that I must either set the stride for running or walking — since the distance varies dramatically depending on which I am doing. Is this correct, pedometer gurus?

    Like you Juju, I have a very, very inert job, and was horrifed by how few steps I take when they are not intentional. Minus a walk or a run, I barely move my legs. There is a dramatic difference on the weekends when I’m shopping, cleaning, running around — not simply making short trips from my cube to the bathroom, my cube to the printer, my cube to the coffee pot. Makes me want to advocate for an extra weekend day every week! Wouldn’t we be more productive and healthier with a four-day weekend? Maybe I’m just dreaming and reveling from the last long weekend….

  3. susan says:

    I too have a very sedentary job. I’ve been wearing a pedometer every day for months now and it really, really makes a difference in how much I move!

    I make a much more conscious effort to get up and talk to people rather than calling them, get up to run errands, take more small breaks to walk around a bit, walk on my breaks instead of sitting, eat a short lunch and spend the rest of my lunch walking, etc. When I do these things, my step count is usually double what it normally would be in a day. I also make much more of a conscious effort to park in the farthest parking space at work, at the store, etc.

    I exercise 6 days a week anyway, but I figure every step helps.

  4. Sheri says:

    Welcome to the Sisterhood of the Motionless! LOL

    Early this year, the Federal agency I work for gave out pedometers to all takers and started a 3-month program of encouraging fitness and healthy eating. During this time, we were asked to wear our peds every day and track the number of steps, which I did faithfully. Like you, I was APPALLED how few steps I took every day (in fact, your numbers are scarily similar to mine!). In 3 months, even with exercising 6 times a week, I NEVER got to 10,000 steps in one day. The closest I got was 8,800.

    So yea, I’m a couch potato who exercises 6 times a week. With 30 pounds down, I’m not complaining…I like being a couch potato. 🙂

  5. Patricia says:

    I started wearing my pedometer just over a week ago because of a program that started at work. It’s also 3 mos. long. Yesterday was the closest I have come 9700+ steps. I was surprised to find my average to be between 4000-5000. I sit behind a computer all day at work. I don’t have kids to chase around in the evening. My hobbies are sewing & reading. With a little more effort I may get there.

  6. Katie says:

    Okay, so I’m going to give the pedometer another try. A different pedometer, that is. I got one out of a cereal box a while ago and tried it out for a few hours, and got severely disillusioned.

    It was WAY too sensitive. I remember checking it while I was sitting in my van ready to drive somewhere. When I got there (I remember coughing a couple of times on the way), it showed I’d taken 25 steps. And that was before I’d even gotten out of the van! Who knew driving and coughing could be exercise? 😉 Okay, so I’ll try again with a different one.

  7. Anj says:

    For someone with a nervous disposition, and a tendancy towards obsessing over the little things, I think a pedometer is not for me. It would drive me nuts not being able to achieve that 10K.

    Alright. It already is driving me nuts. I walked four miles today and counted every other step, then multiplied by two at the end. I only made 6,700 steps. What’s up with that? Who chose this magic number “10,000”? Now it’s going to drive me nuts that everybody else is probably doing 10K a day, and I’m not. And I’ll start counting the steps I take at home, in the driveway, in the office. AAaack!

    Somehow, it’s better to just not know. LOL.


  8. Cathy says:

    I’m another entry in the “inert” column.

    I’m not even trying for 10K yet. I’m trying for at least 6K, at least 4 days a week. So far, so good. The best I’ve done since I’ve been wearing my pedometer is slightly over 9500 steps — would have walked a little farther the 2 days I hit 9500 if I’d known I’d be that close to the magic 10K. And I did get in 7 days of 6K+ last week.

    The pedometer reminds me to take the stairs at work (huff, puff) and to get up and move.

    I’ll try to gradually increase the numbers, but for now, even 6K some days is way better than the 2K-3K I’d do “naturally”.

    Do get a pedometer with a good clip! I accidentally lost one in a public bathroom the second day I had it, and was not going to put my hand in there!

  9. Bron says:

    OK! I have been thinking about getting a pedometer for some time now, and this post and these comments have convinced me. I have a *fairly* active job as a teacher, but I am about to go on Summer Vacation, when I historically become a couch slug, gain 5 lbs and am disgusted with myself come August. Sounds like the pedometer may help me to stay on target, exercise-wise. Thanks for the wake-up call!

  10. vanessa says:


    After reading your 10,000 steps entry this morning I decided to dig our my pedometer. I somehow managed to do 12,500 steps. That’s including doing 35 min on the elliptical machine and making sure I walk around the classroom while I am teaching. Anyway, I just wanted to say thanks for your wonderful site. You are an inspiration.


  11. Kelly says:

    Hi everyone,
    I’m interested in purchasing a pedometer but like juju, I have not done research on it and don’t know what’s the best. Those of you who have one, could you recommend one that is not too complicated?


  12. Sheri says:

    The pedometer I have is Sportline and I got it at Target for around $17.95. I like it better than the free one my work gave out because it has a cover which keeps you from accidentally hitting the reset button and wiping out your steps for the day (AIIIIEEE!). It also has a nice sturdy clip which keeps it from falling into the toilet (yup, it happened to me too Cathy).

  13. Constance says:

    I lost a large amount of weight approximately 14 years ago, and attempted to keep it off walking 4 miles a day. I had a Yorkie that lived to be almost 19 years old after walking daily for about 4 years with me. I believe I gave him a strong heart! = ) Now, I have a new puppy and new weight to lose. Thanks for the information, and most importantly inspiration.

  14. Marten says:

    Just wanted to relate my experience with a pedometer. After reading the article in the GR press, I dug out my pedometer and wore it to work last Friday. I’m working a very physical summer job doing 12 hour shifts, starting at 5:30 each morning. I hit 10,000 steps by 2:00 in the afternoon. Before I went to bed, I had over 19,500 steps according to my pedometer. (from Edmund Scientific) That doesn’t include the time I wasn’t wearing it, bike riding, climbing trees, etc. I also didn’t go out that night to any bars or clubs like I occasionally do. Many steps that I take at work are climbing stairs and lifting things, so I think that I can safely say that I manage at least 10,000. 🙂

    Very interesting article, it has sparked a lot of interest in my family. Tomorrow my father (who works as a doctor) will wear it and we will compare.


  15. JuJu says:

    Hi folks. Just back from the TIME/ABC News Obesity Summit. More on that upcoming. Much more. But I wanted you to know I met Jim O. Hill, the guy behind both the National Weight Control Registry and America on the Move, and walked and talked pedometers. He’s just come out with a book and plan (more on this too, coming up), called The Step Diet, which comes with its own very simple pedometer. Accurate, easy. Clip it to your belt, bra, underwear. It even comes with a safety strap so it doesn’t pop off and down a subway grate.

    Also Christine Gorman, senior writer for TIME, and “Your Health” columnist, says all the researchers who test using pedometers use the Digiwalker. Get one at

    I’m tired and have so much to write about. Stay tuned.

  16. Mary says:

    I got that Step Diet book and the pedometer the came with it, and tried it out. Well..I liked the concept, I’m going to try it, but that pedometer was a piece of crap. The book said you could strap it to the center of your bra. I did, and counted my steps as I walked then checked. It was wy way off. Same when I walked. Plus it was noisey. Then I tried walking around with it on the waist just counting steps (while counting to myself) and it was off…it missed maybe 1/3 of my steps. So before you assume you are totally inert try that as a test, counting the steps.

    I think got a real pedometer at a fitness store for $27. I tested it and it was very close. I wore it a few days. I was getting 2700, 3000, 4000 a day, and I have a very sedentary programming job. I work in a one story house, drive to work, etc. I think that 4000 day I went to curves. My highest day was 7500, and that was when I went to an outdoor festival all day. So don’t give up, test the pedometer. I think quality makes a diff.


  17. Mary says:

    I just made another pedometer discovery. They do not work well on loose fitting pants!! After wearing mine all day while at work, I looked at it about 4pm. I noticed it said only about 500? 600? steps which is a good deal lower then I had been getting. So I walked around the room and counted..20 steps I made, it counted about 5! Then I realized, I was wearing very loose jeans that day, loose especially gapping at the waist. I then re-clipped it so it was on both my jeans and underwear, and counted while walking! Apparently it being loose doesn’t work, maybe the fabric absorbs some of the motion or something. Not doubt a lot of us wear loose fitting baggy stuff some times, so its something to check.

  18. bettywriter says:

    I have a digiwalker. A couple years back, used it faithfully until the battery died and never got it replaced. It was a good and accurate pedometer. Recently I bought my second pair of Mbt shoes (love them) from and got a free pedometer. I like it too. Not as many gadgets as the digiwalker but just as accurate. I’m once again strapped and ready to walk off this desk-jocky weight.

  19. FJ says:

    Hi everyone,
    I got a pedometer a few days ago, and i was stunned to realize how few steps I took. I am a student so my daily activities pretty much include sitting down all day and studying. The pedometer is very accurate, it shows you the steps you have taken, Distance, and the ammount of calories burned. Its a bit more expensive than what everyone else has posted but i think its worth every penny. The pedometer is from Also it come with a USB cable and you download you info into your personal web page. It keeps tract of you steps, charts everything out for you. Its pretty cool. I bought the X1 model, and I am very happy with it. Thay have other models both older and newer, it depend on how much you want to spend. The web access is for free for some of the models for the last model they realsed I belive you have to pay 14.99 a month and that is the reason i did not buy that model. I purched it from it came out to $38 with shipping, its a bit more on their website. I have been wearing for almost a week now and I make it a point not to go to bed without reaching the 10000 steps. I walk around the house, and everyone laughs at me, but its ok Im having fun with it.
    Hope this helps.

  20. dan says:

    I’ve used a sportline… did NOT like looking like a nerd with a beeper on my belt!

    I’ve also used a Tally counter… very difficult to count and talk on the phone at the same time.

    I sure wish there was a better pedometer out there not based on that mechanical pendulum mechanism?



  21. NewJane says:

    I tried wearing a pedometer at my waist over one hip like the directions said and it was WAY off, counting far fewer steps than I’d taken. My normal-sized husband tried it and got a perfect count. I’d read somewhere that obese people with large bellies may get inaccurate readings, so I gave up in disgust.

    Months later I read “The Step Diet” and discovered that alternate positions work better for some people. It’s a trial and error thing. First I tried all the different spots on my belt they recommended (i.e.- center back works well for many people). They were way off. But in the center of my bra, facing my body so the reset button doesn’t get hit accidentally has worked great. It has never flipped off and I don’t end up with a painful red spot on my belly like I did when I tried it on the waistband of my leggings, since I have few clothes which take a belt.

    I’m a homemaker and my days vary pretty widely from 3,000 to 12,000 steps. Half an hour of exercise adds 3,000 to 4,500 more steps, so sometimes the pedometer reading is all the incentive I need to go ahead and move it.

    It is encouraging to know how many steps various activities which don’t show up on the pedometer are equivalent to. “The Step Diet” has a chart. So as a woman, I can count 100 steps per minute for weight lifting and 150 steps per minute for biking, etc.

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