A journey begins with 10,000 steps


A step-counting pedometer. (Image via Wikipedia)

You’ve heard that expression haven’t you? Well, probably not, since the actual expression is “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,” attributed to  Confucius. But this journey, the 10,000 steps one, is about lifetime fitness.

I’ve been working on writing information for my diabetic patients on eating and exercise, and ran across some literature that advocates taking 10,000 steps (about 5 miles)  a day. I’ve read some different variations of this, and if you want to know the basics you can read here, or do a search on your own. The basic premise is that walking 10,000 steps per day (the rough equivalent of 5 miles for a person with an average stride) is thought to be a reasonable amount of exercise to maintain fitness and weight, and is something that an average healthy person should do just about every day. The suggestion is that one should take a brisk 30-60 minute walk for the first 5,000 steps, aka 2.5 miles, then accomplish the rest by one’s regular activity. If your regular day is sedentary, you’ll have to do more in the planned walking part to make up for it.

In researching this, I began to wonder if the average person has enough activity in a typical day to rack up 5,000 or so steps a day. I found a pedometer lying around the house that counts steps, and tried it out. Since my exercise is biking instead of walking, which my pedometer cannot record, my goal is to see if I can get around 5,000 steps during my typical day. Then if I add on the calorie value of biking (100 calories = one mile) that should be the equivalent of walking another 5,000, to bring the total for the day to 10,000 steps.  I’d probably have to bike 45 minutes to get the additional exercise I need. I do more some days, less some days, so let’s hope it all evens out. 

So here’s what happened.

Day 1: I hit the trainer in my basement in the morning, and didn’t clip on the pedometer until after I’d showered and dressed. I spent the day doing a few short errands, working around the house, and up and down the stairs several times doing laundry. Pedometer total: 5,580 steps. Not bad. Let’s see what tomorrow brings – I’ll be at the office so this might be tough…

Day 2: I was at the clinic all day. I do a fair amount of walking around there but it’s  a small building. Probably at least one-quarter to one-third  of my day is standing or sitting. Today I went out at lunch time, so that added some walking to the car, the restaurant, and back again. At home I did my usual evening activities, went to the gym to lift weights. Pedometer total: 5,443 steps.

Day 3: Thirty minutes on the bike, then doing some shopping, errands and work around the house. I had two appointments that required sitting for two-three hours, plus some time in the car. Did some up and down the stairs for laundry too. I thought with all the sitting I did that it wouldn’t be enough steps. But at the end of the day, Pedometer total: 6,506.

Day 4:First thing in the morning  I participated in a 5K (3.1 mile walk). At the end of the walk my pedometer showed 12,164 steps. It seems like my 5K walk should have recorded as 5,000 to 6,000 steps, which makes me think this pedometer is counting two steps for every one I take. Later, I did some more walking around town, shopping, and walked a little bit at a park. Pedometer total for the day: 18,349.

 After my four-day walking experiment, I’m starting to think that either: a) getting 10,000 steps a day is way easier than I thought it would be, or b) this pedometer is recording too many steps.  Perhaps  it’s recording any kind of side to side movement that I do as steps, or counting every step I take as two. It was not an expensive pedometer, so I guess I’ll never know unless I buy a more expensive one, or have someone else try this one and see what kind of numbers they get. But if my pedometer is correct, than it seems that even office-bound people should be able to walk at least 5,000 steps in the course of a day fairly easily.

So, at this point my four-day unscientific experiment has shown inconclusive results. The accuracy of the pedometer remains unknown. It would be interesting to hear from others who have tried the 10,000 steps per day to see what kind of results you’ve gotten. Meanwhile, maybe I can get someone else around here to give my pedometer a try to get some comparison numbers.