Walking 10,000 steps a day may be a craze, but is it all it's cracked up to be? We reached out to Patricia Chaney, a freelance writer and work-from-home mom, to find out what a commitment to a 30-day walking challenge could do for one's health. Here's her experience:
I thought I was above average. I go to group fitness classes about three days a week, and I have two kids who seem to take it as a personal insult if I sit down. I appreciate the benefits of walking. So when I committed to walking 10,000 steps a day, I thought it would be easy.
Aside from being a nice, round number, 10,000 steps equals roughly eight kilometers of walking a day. The challenge encourages overall health and consistent physical activity to offset some of the negative effects of all that time people spend sitting. Doctors and fitness experts promote walking because it's an easy activity for all fitness levels and ages. And you don't need any specific training, equipment or clothing to get started.
Walking also helps reduce your risk of heart disease, obesity and many other health problems.
I learned that I sit. A lot. And I'm in good company, given that most of my co-workers spend six to eight hours a day sitting. I had to adjust my day to make sure I sat far less.
Before starting the 10,000 steps challenge, I figured out my average daily steps to see how much I would need to change. Most days, I can reach 6,000 steps pretty easily, it turns out. But that meant I had some work to do.
For some people, hitting 10,000 steps a day may be easy. For others, going from a sedentary lifestyle to walking eight kilometers can be tough. It's helpful to find your baseline of what you normally walk in a day.
When you know where you're starting, set incremental goals to reach 10,000. It's better to work your way up than to grow frustrated with a large goal and give up. Start by trying to get 4,000 steps a day for a week, and add 1,000 steps a day each week until you're doing 10,000.
You can get those extra steps by parking your car farther away from the office, by taking the stairs instead of the elevator or by taking an extra walk in the evening. Adding a brisk 10-minute walk three times a day is a great way to become more active. It also helps you set incremental goals for yourself throughout the day, as I did by shooting for a certain step count by the time my kids left for school.
Finding Your Style
I used a popular step counter to track my progress. The band lit up for every 2,000 steps and buzzed when I hit 10,000. The challenge of trying to get the band to light up — and a desire to feel its final buzz — motivated me throughout the day.
I aimed to have 2,000 steps before I sat down to work. Between getting the kids ready for school and walking to the bus stop, this was pretty easy. I also committed to taking a break every hour, for five minutes or more, to do something active, such as walking around the house, running in place or doing jumping jacks.
Then I added in a 30- or 60-minute workout at some point during the day, whether it was a class at the gym, a jog around the neighborhood or 30 minutes on the treadmill. Most days, I also did a short two-minute jog in place and some light stretching before bed, and I hit my step goal around 9 p.m.
Reaping the Benefits
Admittedly, I fell short a few days. Still, I did see noticeable benefits from making the effort and hitting the 10,000-step goal most days.
- Better sleep: Running in place in the evening helped me relax, get tired and loosen any stiffness from sitting and watching TV before bed. I fell asleep easier and slept through the night.
- Heightened awareness: Aiming for 10,000 steps was an eye-opener. I didn't realise how much time I spent sitting. Now that I'm aware, I take more breaks and add in modest exercises throughout my workday.
- More energy: As part of this awareness, I get up and walk when I start to crash in the afternoon. Rather than giving in to moments of tiredness, I get moving, which has increased my energy. Taking walking breaks during the day has also enhanced my focus while working and my heart feels healthier, too.
- Shared motivation: Increasing activity didn't just benefit me, but my whole family. The kids and I often stayed outside after school walking or biking, rather than heading inside to watch TV or play video games. We also went to parks and walked nature trails. It's so easy to sleep in or be lazy, but knowing I had a step goal gave me the push I needed to stay active.
Participating in a step challenge is an easy way for anyone, of any fitness level, to condition themselves to be more active. You may be surprised at how much — or how little — you actually get up and move during the day. I never knew how significantly a step goal could influence my motivation. After completing the challenge, I'm continuing to increase my daily step count and am working my way up to running a 5K. My advice: Start simple and you'll reap the health benefits!
Disclaimer: This publication/article/editorial is meant for awareness/educational purposes and does not constitute or imply an endorsement, sponsorship or recommendation of any products. Please consult your doctor/healthcare practitioner before starting any diet, medication or exercise.