The other day, a friend took off his pedometer at the end of the day and noted, "Hmmm, 3,400 steps. Pretty good!"
Uh-oh, I thought. "Uh, I'm not sure about this, but I think that the goal for peak health might be 10,000 steps per day, but I'll Google it for you," I said, in what I hoped was a positive and reassuring tone.
"Something to shoot for!" he replied.
And indeed, I did do some research and found that I was right. 10,000 is the right number for optimum health (12,000 for maintaining weight loss. Of course.) Now, 10,000 steps is approximately five miles. So, you pretty much have to be walking for about an hour and a half a day to hit that goal.
After mulling this around in my head for a few weeks, today I decided to actually put on one of those free pedometers that are always sliding around in the junk drawer and see what my own total was.
By noon, the pedometer read 4,500. I was in the office of my favorite professors (Oh, I didn't mention that I got a second awesome job? Grading papers for my nutrition and health promotion professors? Well, I did.) and I showed my health promotion professor my pedometer and asked her what would happen if I just decided to hang up this whole exercise thing and just do 10,000 steps a day.
"I've read your paper on what you do right now," she said, "and I can tell you that if you go to just walking, you might be able to maintain your weight and your flexibility, but you will lose ground on the other components: cardiovascular fitness, muscular strength, and endurance."
She asked me if I thought I was going to break 10,000 steps today. "Sure! My daughter and I have plans to walk to Hawthorne and then home after school today." Well, throw in that walk, plus an unplanned hike across the Hawthorne bridge after my own classes (buses were running too slowly for my taste), and by the end of the day, my pedometer read 19,138. Not too shabby.
I am pretty sure I wouldn't have walked that far without the pedometer--it was fun to make the numbers go up. So if you are trying to encourage yourself to walk more, strap one on and challenge yourself to squeeze out 500 or so more steps each day. You'll hardly notice the difference (it's only a quarter mile after all), but if calorie burning is your goal, the more the merrier.