In 2014, hoping to get healthier, my partner and I signed up to September for Scope. This was the first time I’d really heard of the 10,000 steps a day target. It was a massive challenge, my legs ached, I struggled to find the time to fit such a huge number of steps in.
I decided to try to keep it going after the month, and have done so fairly consistently right up to now. The physical change in me has been considerable. My walking pace has sped up considerably. I no longer have to pause to catch my breath on hills. I can run up a flight of stairs. My legs no longer ache the day after walking 10,000 steps, in fact I routinely get around 12,000 a day and more on the days I push myself. What used to feel like a long way now feels like an average walk. Where I used to drive everywhere I now think nothing of walking if my destination is a half hour or so away.
There have been other benefits. I’ve explored my community and city and found fascinating places, routes, alleys, patches of nature, public art, staircases and so on that I didn’t know existed. When I can I walk in more rural settings, where I feel even more connected to nature. I’ve never learned to read maps, but am lucky enough that many public footpaths nearby are well signposted. I said in an earlier post that walking hard challenges me physically and soothes me mentally, and this sums up for me why I’ve been able to keep going with this.
The times I haven’t kept it up have been when I’ve been unwell, either physically or mentally. And I need to be kind to myself and not beat myself up for missing my step target when I’m unwell. I wouldn’t expect myself to walk 10,000 steps with a migraine or stomach bug, so why do I think I should do it when my depression and anxiety is at its worst? I was pleased to read this article which reflects my feels about this more eloquently than I could.
I saw a physiotherapist recently. She told me increased walking is one of the most sustainable increases in exercise you can do. While people drop out of gym sessions, or can’t always get to the swimming pool etc, people who walk more are likely to keep walking. To anyone struggling to get more active I’d recommend giving it a go.
A few tips to get started:
- Many smartphones have built in pedometers which can give you a good idea of how many steps you’re already doing.
- Start small. If you’re only doing 3,000 steps a day an increase to 5,000 will have significant benefits, you don’t need leap straight to 10,000.
- Make sure you have supportive comfortable shoes. Definitely don’t try to walk 10,000 steps in brand new Dr Marten’s- I did once, never again!
- Take the stairs not the lift. When I first started I needed to stop for a breather halfway up the stairs to my son’s youth club. Now I can run up them!
- Walk short journeys, and build walking time into your planning.
- If you sit down all day at work go for a walk in your breaks.
- Walk with other people. Whether for companionship or competitiveness will depend on you, but I find it does make a difference when you’re not doing it alone!
This may all seem obvious, often the hardest thing is getting started. But it does make a difference. Good luck!