Walking is arguably the simplest exercise for most people. It can be done indoors or out, no special lessons are required, and supportive, comfortable shoes are just about all the equipment that is required. Why then are more than one half of U.S. adults not meeting the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ recommendation of 30 minutes or more of exercise on most days of the week? There’s always that pesky little thing called motivation, or the lack of it, that seems to get in the way.
If you’re looking to kick start an exercise routine, consider wearing a pedometer. It might be one of the least expensive and most effective ways to climb out of a couch-potato rut. Pedometers are fairly simple little devices that count the number of steps you take by detecting movement. Most can be worn on your waistband or even kept in a pocket. More elaborate models tell the time, calculate how many calories you’ve burned (based on your weight), and keep daily step tallies over an entire week.
Research has shown that pedometers are a good motivational tool, although maybe not by themselves. Several randomized trials show that it’s the combination of wearing a pedometer and having a goal that’s most effective. A common one is 10,000 steps a day, which is equivalent to about five miles, depending on the length of your stride. Walking 10,000 steps a day may seem like a lot, but given that many of us already take between 6,000 and 7,000 steps daily, it isn’t that much more to add.
Put another way, those additional 3,000 to 4,000 steps add up to about a mile and a half, a distance most of us can cover in about 30 minutes. A half an hour is easy to work into a busy life, especially when you consider the exercise guidelines that say we can divide up those 30 minutes into 10-minute chunks and still get health benefits.
It’s not hard to find a pedometer to buy these days, and a decent one can be purchased for less than $50. Any large sporting goods store sells them, and you can buy them online. Ask Dr. Tsuda about which pedometer is right for you!