10,000 Steps – Do I Have To?

Fitness trackers abound these days along with pages of advice encouraging us to walk 10,000 steps. We faithfully don our wristbands and watches hoping to achieve the magical distance of five miles per day. But have you ever stopped to think about why we need those steps? Are 10,000 steps really necessary or is it an arbitrary number conjured up to make us obsessive-compulsive about walking the last 103 steps needed to reach 10,000 before getting into bed?

Let’s go back a few decades, to say, the 1970’s. If you were alive (and if you weren’t, use your imagination), think of all the things you did throughout the day that involved taking steps. To open the garage door, you had to get out of your car, walk to the garage door, open it, walk back to your car, pull in, then walk back and close the garage door–all before entering your house. Hmm…maybe 50 steps involved? In order to change the channel on the television (which only had 4 channels to begin with), you had to walk to the tv, change the channel, then walk back to the couch. Another 20 steps. To fill a prescription, you actually had to get out of your car, walk into the pharmacy, wait for the prescription to be filled (during which time you probably walked around the store because they didn’t have convenient chairs to sit in while you waited), get your prescription and walk back to your car. Log another 150 steps, at least. We were naturally walking roughly five miles just to accomplish the tasks needed for daily living.

Now, come to the 21st century. We use the drive thru at coffee shops for our daily cup of joe. We use riding lawn mowers to cut our grass. We use an elevator to take us up two flights of stairs! All of these “activities” require no steps. We simply do not have to walk like we used to. We have to schedule time and add “taking steps” to our daily agenda.

Five miles, or 10,000 steps, is a sweet spot for health. When comparing the population at large, individuals that average 10,000 steps per day tend to be healthier than individuals that walk less. You can, however, stop short of berating yourself if you are a few steps shy of your daily goal. Some days your sneakers will pound the pavement with more than 10,000 steps. Some days your shoes will have a little less wear. Look at the bigger picture and see how your steps average out for a week. Remember, life does allow a day or two of leisure on occasion.

Some of the more traditional methods of achieving 10,00 steps per day include walking your dog, taking the stairs instead of an elevator, walking inside instead of using the drive-thru, and parking farther away in a parking lot. Some less traditional hobbies might include outdoor photography, bird watching, gardening, playing with your children (think hopscotch and tag!), woodworking and most “save the environment” activities such as picking up litter in public spaces or planting flowers at a local school or nursing home. There are a variety of activities that may not involve a large number of steps but can “count” towards your step goal due to their high calorie burn. These activities include swimming, cleaning your house, and even cooking if you move around your kitchen during preparation (just avoid the mindless snacking while you cook!)

Regardless if you actually wear a tracking device or not, it is Earth Girl’s recommendation to keep your fitness trackers on, your shoes tied and your ambition ready to tackle every step of your day!

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