Measured steps

How many steps did you take today?

I’m not sure why, but the current recommendation seems to be that we should take ten thousand steps in a day to remain healthy. At our block party a month ago one of our neighbors was wearing a pedometer. He works at the Cleveland Clinic and they were recommending that they take ten thousand steps a day.

“I thought I was,” he said. “It turns out, I sit a lot more of the day than I think and I walk shorten distances than I thought.”

Measure and modify.

That is the one of the key philosophies I’ve ported from Agile Development to addressing personal projects. If I want to walk ten thousand steps in a day, first I must measure how many steps I’m taking now.

So I went out and bought a pedometer. This can be overwhelming. There are lots of styles costing anywhere from a couple of dollars to well over one hundred dollars. You don’t need all of the options. Some will calculate calories burned — you don’t need that. You just need to count steps.

I have bought a few different kinds of pedometers over the years. Here’s my advice — pay more attention to the clip than you do to the readout. Initially you’ll want to check your steps all the time. That won’t last. You’ll put your pedometer on and forget about it. But you want a clip that is durable because that’s the most breakable part of the pedometer.

I found one for twelve dollars that I’ve been using for a couple of weeks that I really like. The only gotcha I found with this one is that it automatically starts a new day at midnight so that you don’t need to remember to reset the device each day. The first day I had the time set incorrectly and it reset at noon. Not a big deal.

So I’m encouraging you to get a pedometer today or tomorrow.

I suppose at this point I need to officially remind you I’m not a doctor so you should probably talk to a doctor and not listen to me for medical advice.

For the first few week do nothing but record your steps. Don’t walk more than usual, just note how much usual is. After a week, start increasing the number of steps you take each day slowly. Don’t suddenly jump from two thousand to ten. Increase with a short walk. Add five minutes or so.

It is initially discouraging to see how little a five minute walk adds. “I’ll never get to ten thousand,” you’ll think to yourself.

Take your time. If you jump from where you are to ten thousand you most likely won’t sustain your new behavior. You are now someone who walks two thousand steps a day. If you jump to ten thousand you will become someone who walks two thousand steps a day who is suddenly walking ten thousand steps. I’m recommending you increase slowly over time to become that person who walks ten thousand steps a day. Every day. As long as your body can manage it.