How many of you have tried counting steps for exercise? The basic idea is to count your steps, using a pedometer, and reach a daily goal of 10,000 steps. All types of walking activities are included in your daily step count such as taking a fitness walk; running up and down the stairs in your home to do laundry; the steps you take straightening your home each day; the steps you take walking to and from work or errands. All of these add up to help reach the goal of 10,000 steps per day.
It is generally considered that 10,000 steps are equal to 5 miles. This concept was developed by the Japanese during a marketing campaign to sell pedometers and is endorsed by health authorities around the world. The American Heart Association uses the 10,000 steps as a guideline to improve your health and increase longevity.
Recently I wrote a review of the Fitbit Zip which measures steps as well as other information. I wear the Zip each day and here is what I have discovered. I have a small stride; it takes more steps for me to reach the same distance as some other people. For example, it takes me approximately 2400 steps for 1 mile. If I use the 10,000 step standard then it will take me 12,000 steps to reach 5 miles. I am sure I am not the only anomaly and while I doubt I will build up to 12,000 steps per day, I still use my pedometer as a measure of how active I am in a given day.
Unless you are a very active person it is not always easy to meet the 10,000 steps. If you meet that goal or not there are still many benefits in counting your steps. Here are some tips on counting steps for exercise.
•Establish a goal, whether it is to increase your daily step count by 500 steps, or by 10%; or to reach 10,000 steps a day. Whatever goal you choose determine it before you start counting steps. Random activity will not give you the results you might expect.
•The Surgeon General recommends a total of 30 minutes of activity per day, at least five days a week. Walking 10,000 steps a day is comparable to these recommendations.
•Studies show that if you keep track of your daily steps in a journal or diary you will be more likely to stick to your goal.
•Fitness walking, even if it is 10,000 steps, is not enough for an effective weight loss program. If you are walking to lose weight then what you eat and how much is just as important as how many steps you take. More steps does not mean more food.
•The more steps you walk the more calories you burn. The number of calories burned will be determined by several factors such as how much you weigh and how fast you walk.
•You don’t need to do all of your steps at once. Break your walks up into 10, 20, or 30 minute chunks. The important thing is that no matter how many walks you take make them count. A leisurely walk around the block will add towards your daily step count goal; however a brisk walk around the block will also burn more calories.
•A new report from The Journal of the American Medical Association states that wearing a pedometer makes people more aware of their amount of activity and motivates them to increase activity.
•Reviews from Stanford University show that people using pedometers to monitor their activity are more likely to walk about two thousand more steps per day. This can equal as much as a mile. Studies of this same group of people showed drops in body mass index and blood pressure.
•Invest in the best pedometer you can afford. However, expensive does not always mean the best so check reviews before you buy. A study at the University of Tennessee compared 13 brands of pedometers. They found that some counted steps twice, some missed steps taken; some even counted bumps in the car as steps taken. So be aware, not all pedometers are created equal.
•You can check your pedometer’s accuracy by walking 100 steps and see if your pedometer recorded 100 steps. Try increasing the distance and see if the pedometer keeps up with you.
Finding a program you can follow and stick to is important whether it is already put together or you devise it yourself. Here is an example of how to build up your steps gradually.
•During the first week of wearing your pedometer, record your steps each day. Keep track of your steps for a week and divide the total by seven. This gives you the average steps you walked per day and is considered your baseline.
•For the second week take the total from the first week and increase it by a percentage that you can achieve and maintain. For example if you walked a total of 5,000 steps in week one, multiply by 1.20, which is a reasonable increase of 20%. This will change your weekly goal to 6,000 steps, an additional 1,000 steps per week.
•Continue to track daily and weekly steps and increase in increments of 20% every week unless this is too much for you. If so back off, make the increases smaller, increase every other week, or whatever works for you.
What it boils down to is increasing activity. James Hill, PhD, and one of the authors of the book “The Step Diet” states: “We need to get people to be more active and by using the pedometer and making small dietary changes, we really can make a dent in the obesity of our nation.” Be healthy, be happy!
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