Saturday, March 6, 2010

How Do I Use My Pedometer?

As part of a spring exercise incentive program at my job they just gave us all a pedometer and encouraged us to start walking 5000 steps. I'm not clear on this: How far is it, how long it will take, and are we supposed to do 5000 steps every single day?  Do I wear the pedometer all the time or just while taking this one walk?  Millie W.

Dear Millie,

Most public health and wellness agencies agree that 10,000 steps per day is the number to aim for. This is about 5 miles per day. It does not necessarily mean a five mile walk (although that is perfectly acceptable) but means you should be moving around all day long as much as possible.

Put the pedometer on as soon as you dress in the morning, and wear it until you go to bed at night. Keep a record of your daily steps for a few weeks, and remember to reset the instrument each morning before you put it back on.

You may find initially that you walk 1000 steps a day if you do not exercise and/or if your workday is sedentary. Others may find they easily get in thousands of steps per day with a daily 2 mile walk, moving around on the job, running after their small children, and walking up and down the aisles of the grocery store. There are dozens of ways to get in steps and the good news is, they all count!

Get an idea what your average number is after a few days of recording, and then decide how much you can ramp it up. Try getting in 50 percent more steps than you have been (such as increasing from 4000 per day to 6000 per day) and see how that goes for a few weeks. If you can do it, shoot for another 2000 per day and keep it up for a few more weeks.

It's fun to see how many more steps you can get in each day just by parking a bit farther away or taking a flight of stairs instead of the elevator. For more fun, consider having contests with others, either at work or online.  And the biggest benefit for most people? Track the weight you lose as you increase your activity just by getting in more steps! As a guideline, you can lose a pound each month from every 2000 steps you add per day. A 2000 step walk is about a mile and should take most people just about 20 minutes or less. This simple strategy can leave you 10 pounds lighter by this time next year, so give it a try!

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