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MOVE IT – Observations of a 10,000-Steps-A-Day Challenge

July 4, 2011

 In the last few years I became more sedentary in my day.  Even if I exercised in the morning, I would then get in the car and sit. Sit and drive to work.  Walk up 20 steps to my office where I often would sit from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. Then I would stand up and walk about 30 steps to the conference room where I would sit again. Sit, eat and read. Occasionally, I’d walk to the copier or the bathroom just a few feet away.  Sit until 5:30 p.m. After work I’d sit and drive home. Run the kids to their events and sit. Sit, sit, sit.

My day was actually busy, but not physical. I think of myself as an active person, but I could tell I was slipping away from myself. The subtle buildup of back aches, sore hips and general complaining was annoying. Little physical health problems kept popping up, nothing earth shattering. I just didn’t know how to break out of that cycle.

I was like an old engine: Let it sit long enough and eventually it needs a major tune up.

A change in my professional life this year helped me begin to shift gears. In May I met an executive from AmeriHealth at a Women’s Expo in southern New Jersey, who explained how her company launched an internal campaign to get employees to be more physically active each day. Simply enough, everyone was asked to walk 10,000 steps a day for a month.

How hard could that be?  We’re always running around, especially us Moms.

So I challenged myself to walk at least 10,000 steps a day through June. Without trying to outdo myself I wanted to see what it would take to get moving.  I walked approximately 303,150 steps, which averages to 10,105 a day. On 13 days I didn’t walk nearly enough. On weekends I remained a road warrior.

Here are some fun observations:

  • You can’t log 10,000 steps from the couch or the driver seat.
  • Phone apps are not for me. Walking, running, hiking and cycling are a form of meditation for me and I don’t want to be tempted to answer the smart phone, post to Facebook or read my email.
  • If my simple pedometer can accidentally be reset I will hit the button more than once on days I am moving the most.
  • I did not do step equivalents to other physical activities. If I biked or did a strength workout I still tried to walk 10,000 steps.
  • I quickly ignored the amount of calories burned or the miles walked. Instead I focused on time and steps and a quality workout.
  • Folding laundry became a physically active chore. Towels got folded as I walked to the closet.
  • Parking in the back of the lot racks up steps quickly.
  • I am ashamed that I only walked 3,100 steps one day.
  • Playing air hockey with the kids after dinner or standing while doing anything on Wii is a good way to get those last steps in.
  • My hair stylist – I’ve learned – does squats and toe raises when she is drying and straightening hair. That’s how she gets her steps in.
  • Go dancing and rock that pedometer!
  • Twice I screwed up my stride length. Once, I accidentally reset it to 7.7 and, for a brief moment, thought I walked 37 miles. That was a good laugh.
  • My walking stride length is 2.5. My running step length is longer, but not much faster.
  • The first week of the challenge was fun.  The second week was encouraging. The third week was a chore. The final week was my most productive work week in awhile and my least productive step week. I knocked it out on the last two days with 16,400 and 18,709 steps respectively.
  • I actually wore off the labels on my old pedometer
  • I am going to miss the ticka-ticka-ticka sound of my pedometer when I walk. I need to buy a new sports watch with a pedometer. My old one broke.
  • There is definitely a correlation between the amount I walk in the course of the day and the quality of my sleep. I also do a better job squashing the late-night snacking urge. I can feel the difference.
  • In trying to reach my goals odd chores got done around the house. I can now see the back of my linen closet and the garage got reorganized.
  • It is a half mile from the parking lot to my mother’s apartment in continuing care.
  • When I power walk the hills in my neighborhood for 75 minutes I usually crank out 7,000 steps and get my prayers done.  On a stronger day, I’ll hit 8,000.
  • Bob Harper’s cardio-weight workouts are the most amazing aerobic workouts I’ve done in years. They make me feel like a super hero, but I only log about 1,100 steps.

This challenge made me realize that I must exercise in the morning or I just won’t get myself moving all day. The most encouraging lesson I learned is that if I don’t think about how much, how often and how long I move in the course of each day then I won’t.  With a desire to take control of my life by taking control of my health that’s a lesson I walk away from.

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