10,000 steps. That's what you should aim for every day for a fit and healthy life and to ward off obesity. I'm not quite sure where that figure of 10,000 steps comes from, but it appears to be a figure that's generally accepted. (Ten thousand is obviously a bit of a made up number - everyone is different and it even if we weren't it seems unlikely to me that the ideal would be such a convenient number. But 10,000 is easy to remember.)
What does this have to do with my lower back pain? Well, Radio 4's programme " Case Notes" recently devoted one of its programmes to lower back pain, and one of the conclusions they reached is that people who are generally "fit" have fewer incidences of low back pain. And as I don't think I'm fit enough, I've decided to do something about it - and hopefully one of the benefits will be less back pain for me. So I've decided to investigate this whole 10,000 steps business.
10,000 steps. That's quite a lot. In fact, it turns out to be quite challenging...
How challenging? Well, I bought a cheap (less than £5) pedometer when I was last in York, and thought I'd give it a go.
First I measured my current level of activity. Here's my first week:
Sunday: 6,100 steps. We started the day with an hour-long moderate-paced walk around the paths and fields from home. That used up about 5,000 steps, but then things went downhill as I spent most of the rest of the day in the house. As I was working on the computer or reading the paper for much of the day, I didn't add to the morning's good effort. I'm actually a little disappointed - 10,000 steps is obviously much harder than it sounds...
Monday: 3,200 steps. A day spent mostly in the office, with a short walk at lunchtime (which accounted for 1,200 steps).
Tuesday: 2,800 steps. Another day in the office. Today it rained, however, so I didn't go for a walk.
Wednesday: 5,100 steps. A day in the office featuring by a 6 hour progress meeting. Ugh. I made up for it by going for a brisk walk (2,600 steps) in the evening around the village.
Thursday: Something went wrong with the pedometer as it only recorded 250 steps up until about 4pm. I know I work in the office, but I also know that I've done more than that. (It's about 100 steps just to make a cup of coffee!)
Friday: 2,200 steps. A day in the office - with a short walk at lunchtime. Spent the evening driving down to my in-laws, so I didn't get to exercise in the evening.
Saturday: 1,800 steps. I attended a wedding, so most of the day was spent sitting in either the Registry Office or at the reception. (I didn't say this was a normal week...)
So perhaps I shouldn't have been disappointed with my 6,100 steps on Sunday - it turns out that was the high point of the week. The following week wasn't much better.
Sunday: 3,600 steps
Monday: 1,700 steps
Tuesday: 1,800 steps
Wednesday: 2,700 steps
Thursday: 4,300 steps
Friday: 1,900 steps
Saturday: 2,900 steps
I've also found www.whi.org.uk, a UK organisation promoting excercise/fitness/health through walking. According to them, most people take only about 3,000 steps a day - which makes me pretty much average as if you average all that lot, it ends up slightly over 3,000. Oh, the delights of a desk job!
So it looks like getting to 10,000 steps every day is going to be quite a challenge. If I go for a walk in the evening and one at lunchtime, it looks like I can get to around 7,000 steps - but to get to 10,000 could mean a brisk 60 minute walk every day. There are two problems with this - the first is time. Like almost everyone else I have a fairly busy lifestyle and fitting in a 60 minute walk isn't always easy.
The second problem is that I found myself really tired towards the end of the week, and that suggests that I am simply not fit enough to dive straight into a daily 10,000 step routine without building up to it.
So I've got to find time for the extra walking, and also build up my general level of fitness. Here's my plan:
Keep a log. If I keep a daily log, I stand a chance of achieving this. (I can turn it into a game.) I know that if I don't keep a log, I'll never manage to get up to 10,000 steps a day.
Walk more. There are lots of easy ways I can get my steps up each day. (See the list below.) I'm going to try and aim for a weekly increase of 500 extra steps each day.
Watch less TV. Of all the things I can give up, watching TV is the easiest.
Review my progress and work out how I can increase the number of steps I do.
20 Helpful Hints for walking more
I found these on the whi website and thought they were worth repeating:
Take a walking break instead of a sitting break
Use the stairs instead of the lift or escalator
Park further away from your destination
Walk instead of driving if the distance is short
Get off the bus a stop early
Walk your dog instead of just letting it out
Have a meeting while walking instead of sitting in the office
Instead of emailing or phoning a colleague, walk to their desk
Walk your child to school
Waiting at the station walk up and down the platform instead of standing
Park in the space furthest away from the supermarket
Walk while you are on your mobile phone
Investigate a lunchtime walking route
Change the channel on the TV without the remote control
Join a friend who walks their dog or borrow a dog!
Walk every supermarket aisle, whether you need to or not
Get up from your chair and take a 3-minute walk every hour
Do extra housework or gardening
Aim to climb the stairs 10 times a day
Fly a kite!
Links on 10,000 steps
Case Notes - the Radio 4 programme that started all this off...
www.whi.org.uk - the UK Countryside Agency's "Walking the way to health" site