Is it just me or has the 10,000 step challenge boomed in 2017? Or maybe it simply feels that way because I’m attempting said challenge myself and not one person I’ve talked to about it has said, ‘what’s that?‘. Most people smile saying, ‘me too!’ and eagerly show me their step-tracking device. As far as I can tell by a quick google search, the NHS kicked off the frenzy in 2014 with a campaign trying to get people active, literally one step at a time.
Getting a tracking device
It all began for me when I received a simple wrist / ankle-worn step tracker at Christmas. This watch-like device tells me how I’m doing with updates at the press of a button or at regular intervals I can set myself that sync to my mobile phone. Mine’s a Jawbone UP, there are so many on the market for all purposes and budgets so do your research on the best activity tracking device for you.
Cycling VS Walking
Being a cyclist, walking is painfully slow, meaning I’m pretty much always in a hurry as I haven’t arrived where I need to be as quick as I’d like. This power walking often leads to painful shin splints and my tiny 5ft elevation means my legs just don’t extend far enough to get to my preferred cycling pace without my wheels (despite trying), frequently leading to my arrival at destinations all hot and bothered and cussing my painful shins. Yet, the tracker and my 10,000 steps daily target means I am actually happy to walk. Yes, happy! And eager! To the point where I now park my car at the other end of the street to my house regardless of spaces right outside my front door; I walk 30 minutes to the train station and back on my commute (although the bike may be roped in purely to improve on my tardiness and save my shins); I also try to take woodland walks at weekends wherever possible, especially as my weekday commuter steps aren’t there to offer a sure thing to meet my daily goal.
Getting off your backside
According to the NHS, the average person walks between 3,000 and 4,000 steps per day. I am lucky that my accumulated steps taken during my commute to Birmingham means I hit my 10,000 step target pretty much every day in the week. But I know when working on another project last year I was doing a mere 2,500 steps all day. This was due to driving straight from home to the office and barely moving off my backside if only to urinate and grab yet another cup of coffee (I do not recommend this way of life).
Thankfully, although initially begrudgingly, I’m glad I get the chance to stretch my legs morning and evening, not only giving my body a good bout of exercise but also giving my mind some space too. Taking on the 10,000 steps challenge is not only making me feel healthier, happier and so much more alive than I’ve found myself of late, but it is also making me change my habits and how I function in my day-to-day life. It’s making me appreciate my surroundings so much more; I am taking note of the changing seasons, flowers and wildlife; I’m using some of my walking time to learn a language or listen to an audiobook; I don’t moan (as much) when I need to do an emergency run to the shop for milk; and I’m even more eager than before to take my Cinnamon Trust dog out for good run in the park (that’s him running, me plodding). Walking is also a great way to meet up with friends and just enjoy one another’s company without the interference of technology, which I am sure we all know the situation very well.
There is so much research out there relating to the importance of spending time outdoors in nature for human health, happiness and well-being. That’s why not only do I benefit from getting my steps in during my regular commute, but I also take a slightly longer route in order to reap the rewards of walking in nature. I plan my commute to take me on a nice green pedestrian path all the way to the station. That way I can ogle at the flowers coming into bloom, listen to the birds’ chirp, bicker and sing, and breathe in the smell of the trees, the flowers and ramson currently oozing their garlicky waft into the air. Bliss.
Planning your steps
For me, weekends and days off require a fair bit of extra effort to get my steps in. As I mentioned, I walk a dog for charity one morning a week and take any spare opportunity to pick him up for long walks in the woods all around the Cotswold’s countryside. Having a dog makes exercise easy, it doesn’t even feel like exercise! I’ll also encourage my partner to join me, meaning we’re spending more time outdoors talking and sharing experiences, rather than sat inside on our mobile phones or in front of the TV. On the NHS 10,000 steps challenge webpage, they suggest the following ideas to help make walking more fun:
- find a walking partner, so you have someone to chat to as you walk
- listen to your favourite music or podcasts as you go
- plan interesting walks during your days off
- join a walking group like the Ramblers
Are you doing the 10,000 Steps Challenge? I’d love to hear the habits you’ve changed since starting and tips to get those extra few in the bag. 😃