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Using A Pedometer To Increase Your Walking

Posted: Saturday, December 27, 2003

Why walking?

Walking is the most popular leisure time activity and a fundamental movement necessary for daily living. Public health recommendations suggest that everyone should accumulate 30-60 minutes or more of moderate physical activity, such as brisk walking, on a daily basis. But how do you know if you are walking enough? One way of course is to plan structured 30-60 minute walks; the focus should be on getting these walks in on a daily basis. But we also know that there are health benefits of accumulated bouts of activity so a more flexible approach is to accrue walking throughout the day. The most effective way of ensuring adequate activity following this recommendation is to monitor your daily behavior using a pedometer. This step counting approach to healthy physical activity is described in detail in Manpo-kei: The Art and Science of Step Counting (2003 Trafford Publishing).

What are pedometers and how do they work?

Pedometers are simple and inexpensive gadgets ($10-30) that you wear attached to your clothing at your waist. They have an internal lever mechanism that detects the up-and-down movement at the hip while walking and translates this to steps taken. They are considered by researchers to be acceptably accurate for assessing typical walking behaviors and they also have the potential to be used as motivational devices. Small errors due to missed steps during slow walking or extra steps during bending or fidgeting are considered to be small and unimportant in the context of daily movement.

How many steps/day do people typically take?

We are now becoming acquainted with how many steps different groups of people typically take. We can expect children to take 12,000 and 16,000 steps/day and healthy younger adults take 7,000-13,000 steps/day. Healthy older adults typically take 6,000-

8,500 steps/day and those living with chronic illnesses or with disabilities take 3,500-5,500 steps/day.

How many steps/day should I take?

This is a burning question. The media are quickly promoting “10,000 steps/day” which can be traced to a business catchphrase originally used to promote the sale of pedometers in the 60’s in Japan. The science behind that level is not well established yet, however. We do know that it is definitely too low for children and is likely a difficult target for more sedentary folks to achieve, let alone sustain.

A more realistic approach that accommodates the public health recommendations is to find out how many steps/day you are taking now and gradually increase it by an amount that is equivalent to 30-60 minutes of brisk walking as per public health recommendations. For example, depending on walking speed, people will take approximately 1000 steps in 10 minutes. You can personalize this even more by determining exactly how many steps you take in 10 minutes while wearing your pedometer. Then just multiply this number by 3-6 to find out how much you might want to increase your daily walking, depending of course on your personal schedule and goals.

How do I find out how many steps/day I take?

Wear a pedometer for a full week without altering your usual activity. This is important so you can get a real Baseline that you can later work on increasing if you like. During this first week take special note of what you do differently on days when your steps/day are highest and lowest. For example, you might discover that the days when you go shopping, walking at the beach, or to the park with your child are higher than the days you stay at home or travel long distances in the car. You will find this information useful when you subsequently try to maximize your steps/day.

How do I work on increasing my steps/day?

Once you have a goal number of steps/day (your Baseline plus the amount you want to increase by) focus on working towards this goal one day at a time. Look at your pedometer frequently throughout the day to find out where you are and what you need to do to meet your day end goal. Pay attention to what behaviors you practice that elicit the most number of steps and repeat these as often as you can. For example, parking farther away from stores might seem to produce relatively few extra steps, but the more you practice this behavior the more the steps will add up.

Is there a single best strategy?

Include others. Social support is perhaps one of the best strategies for increasing your steps/day. Show family members your pedometer and get them interested in increasing their own walking behaviors. Schedule walks with your friends. Get your co-workers involved in going for a walk at lunch hour. Phone someone and ask them how their walking is going. Take your dog for the walk he deserves. Not only will you benefit from the support you derive but you will also be passing the gift of wellness onto others.

About the author:

Dr. Catrine Tudor-Locke is an Assistant Professor of Health Promotion in the Department of Exercise and Wellness at Arizona State University East. Her research is focused on understanding and addressing the problems associated with sedentary lifestyles in a range of populations including youth, older adults, and individuals with Type 2 diabetes. She developed The First Step Program, a novel daily physical activity intervention that capitalizes on a simple and inexpensive pedometer as a self-monitoring and goal-setting tool. Dr. Tudor-Locke is the author of a self-help book based on The First Step Program titled Manpo-kei: The Art and Science of Step Counting (2003 Trafford Publishing). She monitors her own physical activity daily with a pedometer and averages 14,000 steps/day.

The world does not need another "how to exercise" book. And this is exactly what this book is not about. Written by one of the new up-and-coming prevention researchers in a refreshingly humorous and compassionate style, Manpo-kei: The Art and Science of Step Counting presents the appealing rationale and the simple methods for taking back our naturally active lifestyles using a simple and inexpensive pedometer. The title of the revolutionary little book is a reflection of the Japanese 30-year experience with personal pedometers and lifestyle activity.

Nicknamed "manpo-kei" which literally means "10,000 steps meter" in Japanese, the devices were imported to America in the mid-1990's by scientists who used them to determine daily activity levels in research studies. The power that these little instruments have to motivate individuals to increase their activity is just now being acknowledged by these same scientists... it is now time to let the public in on the secret. The author of this book holds nothing back while providing a workbook style content that gently guides the reader through the Manpo-kei program of self-monitoring, goal-setting, and personal feedback processes. The author also gives away handy tools including a pedometer shopping list (what to look for), activity logs, and personal feedback worksheets.
See what the First Step Program is all about:

Source: Diabetes In

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