The Pedometer Challenge

pedometerby Gord Grant, Ph.D., R.Ac.

A pedometer can help motivate you towards a goal of being more active!

Our society is experiencing an exercise crisis as much as a diet crisis.   Our bodies were designed to move, but our modern culture does not support or require adequate movement to be healthy.  In our busy lives, each of us is challenged to find both time and motivation to walk instead drive, or be active instead of sitting in front of the TV or computer. 

Low carb and drastic diets to lose weight are less effective and less satisfying in the long term than making small, manageable, and persistent healthy choices in lifestyle and diet.   Exercising on a regular basis remains an important way to burn away calories while keeping the body fit and healthy by enhancing circulation, strength, metabolism, and mental health.

The Pedometer Challenge:  It is commonly agreed that one should aim for 6000 steps a day for maintenance of health (~5 km), and for weight loss, 10,000 steps a day (~8 km).  10,000 steps may sound like a lot of walking — and it is! Depending on your walking rate, this would commonly take about 1 hour & 40 minutes. Yet this need not be dedicated time to walking for that purpose alone, since there may be many opportunities for you to walk instead of driving or busing. But regardless of what walking goals you make, using a pedometer can be a key part of your plan to incrementally increase the amount you walk toward what feels best for you.

Using computer programs (check out freeware StepTracker) you can document your walking, running, diet, weight, — whatever!  Support websites (I like Wendy Bamgardner’s Blog and guides) send you daily reminders, and keep you on track toward systematically creating a positive habit of activity every day.  In StepTracker, graphic summaries are made to monitor your progress.  You can be part of internet walking forums where you can ask other fellow walkers questions and give each other tips on walking for fitness, health and weight loss. If you have an iPhone or smartphone with GPS, you can turn them into pedometers with the appropriate apps (or just pick a pedometer from me at your next appointment!).

I am astounded by how much walking I can do without a great cost of extra time.  For instance, when I drive to MacEwan University for teaching, I need to leave home 40 minutes before class to ensure being able to adjust for the huge variables in morning traffic, parking and weather (scraping the windshield, warming the car).  On the other hand, this 5.1 km trip takes me a very predictable 50 minutes when I walk, not really much longer than driving.  BUT, walking costs me no gas or parking, it benefits the environment, and I feel great after!  In fact, I notice that my very best days at work and home seem to correspond to those when I get this extra walking in. 

For me walking is  a stress-reducing activity, especially compared to driving in rush hour traffic! I find it no surprise that during my extended walks, I often realize creative and insightful plans to face challenges in my life.  Walking also offers me important time for transition to be at my clinic or to come home to my family.   Whether you walk to get somewhere you need to go, or just walk in spare time instead of something a more sedentary activity,  Try using a pedometers as a tool to build both motivation and habits toward a more movement in your life.