You can’t do a 10,000 step program without a pedometer. And a pedometer is pretty useless unless you have a goal like walking a certain number of steps.
The 10,000 step program is the most widely accepted walking goal that we have. While it certainly is an arbitrary amount, it has the virtues of being easily remembered and offering great rewards in reduced blood glucose levels and just generally feeling great.
A few weeks ago a good friend gave me the encouragement that I needed to start on the 10,000 step program as well as an excellent new pedometer. I had a whole bunch of pedometers before, and all of them were unsatisfactory in one way or another. But I had never set a goal of walking 10,000 steps in a single day before.
Within a few days I worked my way up to the goal. One of the things that anyone will tell you when you make this commitment is not to go all the way there immediately.
The first thing that I noticed is that 10,000 steps is quite a bit more than my usual daily walk or work out on the treadmill. At my rather slow pace it means the commitment of a couple of hours. It’s about four and one-half to five miles.
I’m glad to make the commitment. This is something that I do for myself – for the health of my body. Like most people, I have to devote most of my waking hours to earning a living and to helping other people.
But after I got well into the 10,000 step program, doing it every day was wearing me out. I also remembered reading the latest consensus statement from the American Diabetes Association on “Physical Activity/Exercise and Type 2 Diabetes”.
It says most clinical trials use a three times a week frequency and that “many people find it easier to schedule fewer longer sessions rather than five or more weekly shorter sessions.”
Depending on the duration and intensity of the activity, the effect of a single bout of aerobic exercise on insulin sensitivity lasts from 24 to 72 hours, according to the consensus statement. Because the duration of increased insulin sensitivity is generally not more than 72 hours, it recommends that there should not be more than two consecutive days without aerobic physical activity.
I brought my concerns about doing 10,000 steps every day to my doctor, David Tanner. He is professionally a doctor of osteopathic medicine (D.O.) and personally an athlete.
He agrees that regular exercise is necessary. But exercising daily isn’t. It may even be counterproductive, since it doesn’t give our muscles a chance to recover.
Dr. Tanner’s exercise schedule fits neatly into the seven days of a week. It’s two days on, two off, two on, one off.
I am delighted to adopt this schedule to fit my desire to take the Saturday-Sunday weekend off, when the trails and fitness center are the most crowded. Then, I walk on Monday and Tuesday. Wednesday is off. At the end of the week, I walk on Thursday and Friday.
In ancient Chinese philosophy, which I dabbled in when I studied acupuncture years ago, 10,000 of anything simple means beyond counting. Certainly you or I would not want to count that number of steps. So that’s where the pedometer comes in.
Strangely, however, the 10,000 step program comes to us not from China but from Japan.
The idea of walking 10,000 steps every day started out as a Japanese fad known as “manpo-kei,” which means “10,000-step meters” in Japanese. This simple idea of setting 10,000 steps as your daily goal is already the exercise program pushed by HealthPartners, a Minnesota managed care company, and by the Cooper Clinic in Dallas.
The pedometer my friend gave me is one of several made by Omron. This is a company that I know makes quality products, since the Omron heart rate monitor that I have is the highest rated.
The Omron HJ-112 not only counts my steps, but also counts “aerobic steps,” which are continuous steps taken for more than 10 minutes. This is an effective exercise to burn body fat.
In addition, this pedometer also measures the number of calories burned and miles walked. There is also another feature that I really like, because the cheapo pedometers that I had before lacked them.
This feature might not seem like much, until you lose your pedometer, like I have done more than once. The Omron HJ-112 has both a holder that you can clip to your belt or the top of your pants and a strap that connects the pedometer to a clip on your pants. I doubt if I will ever lose this pedometer.
That’s all for now. I want to hit the trail again before it gets dark. This time I need only a short walk, since I have already accumulated 9,005 teps so far today.
HealthCentral published an earlier version of this article.