Sunday, May 25, 2014

Walk for Better Health {10,000 Steps}

I always knew that daily exercise was essential for good health, especially walking. I mean, besides the fact that everyone told me walking for good for my health, it didn't take much reasoning to figure out that prehistoric man probably spent a lot of his time walking around, either to hunt animals, to gather fruits and vegetables, or to change locations.

Once I adopted a paleo lifestyle, I wasn't surprised at all to discovered that daily, low-aerobic exercise was one of the major principles all the primal-lifestyle advocates suggested we follow.

But if you're anything like me, you're probably wondering just how much walking is enough... and also why walking is so great for us in the first place.

I had first heard about the magic number "10,000" on Mark's Daily Apple in this article outlining 17 health benefits of walking. There are some obvious things, such as helping to keep your buttocks firm and toned, as well as some less obvious ones, like walking being good for your brain and memory capacities. Plus, this article says that active people preform better at work - and just generally function better all around!

Walking is simple enough for most to do as well - and everyone has the equipment to do it! {Yes, there are exceptions to this, I realize that.} Walking can be done anywhere and at nearly anytime.

But. No one's walking anymore. In fact, 25-35% of American adults are classified as "sedentary". But just what does sedentary mean? Here is the breakdown by number of steps per day:

  • Less than 5,000 steps/day: sedentary
  • 5,000 - 7,499 steps/day: low active
  • 7,500 - 9,999 steps/day: somewhat active
  • 10,000 - 12,499 steps/day: active
  • More than 12,500 steps/day: highly active

I have always considered myself to be a fairly active person, and when I read that 10,000 steps was "only" about 5 miles, I assumed I couldn't be too far from that mark. I decided to buy a pedometer one day, just to see more precisely exactly how active I was. I didn't try to walk anymore than usual as I wanted to see how much I walked in a normal day.

The number at the end of the day shocked me: 6,396.

I was "low active". And on the lower end of that scale as well. That's about 3 miles. Before seeing that number, I had the impression that I spent a lot of my time walking around - I mean, I'm a teacher! I spend all day on my feet! I was wrong though, and set out to raise that number!

The next day I was at 8,270 steps. The day after that, 7,775 steps. The day after that brought me to 8,337 steps. And, finally, the next day was the day I had been waiting for: 10,446 steps. Yes! I was an "active" person!

Now, I do realize that one day of reaching my 10,000 step goal isn't enough to classify myself in the "active" category, but it does show me that it's a perfectly attainable goal for me to have and strive for. It also reassures me to know that the number I see each evening is lower than my actual days' count: I don't wear the pedometer during my daily HIIT sessions. {The instructions that came with it clearly stated: No Running. I assume that jumping is also forbidden...} Therefore, if I hit the 10,000 step mark, I know I'm well into the "active" lifestyle range. 

And that makes me, and most likely my heart, happy :)

So I'd like to challenge you all to walk more. Buy a pedometer, wear it every day for a week and track the number of steps you take each day. At the end of the week, add them together and divide by 7: this will give you your daily average. Now for the second week, your task is to beat that average every single day. A good goal is to do better by a 20% boost. {To find your goal, multiply your daily average by 1.2 - this should be your new goal each day.}

No one says you have to hit the 10,000 step mark right away, even just walking more than you usually do will do you some good!

Happy walking!

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