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 skinnydaily.com.
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 shapeup.org, 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 shapeup.org and americaonthemove.org 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.