Better fitness – it’s just 10,000 steps away!

Walking with a group

It costs a few dollars, clips onto your waistband and could succeed in getting you and the rest of Australia fitter where more expensive equipment and gadgets have failed. What is it? The humble pedometer!

Keep walking!

Australian organisation, ‘10,000 Steps’, says a good quality pedometer can help you get fit and burn more energy; to help you to lose weight and keep it off, at least 12,000 steps are recommended.

But isn’t a pedometer just another gadget you ask? And, will your new-found habits just turn out to be a short-term fad? Well, not necessarily; UK research by the ‘Walking the Way to Health Initiative' says the humble pedometer might encourage long lasting good health habits. A study conducted four years after the Initiative began found that around 50% of people who took part in an experiment which encouraged them to move more were still using a pedometer and a staggering 93% said they were still walking more as a result. Plus, research published in 2007 by the Journal of the American Medical Association found that individuals who used a pedometer were able to ‘significantly’ increase their physical activity, lower body mass index and cut blood pressure, too.

So, you can walk your way to better health. If a pedometer can encourage you to walk more frequently, it really can make a big difference. Clip it to your belt in the morning and count the number of steps you have taken at the end of the day. This is your base line level. The recommended 10,000 daily steps are equivalent to walking around 8-13 km according to your length of stride and your walking speed.

Take small steps!

If 10,000 steps seem a bit much for you right now, take a couple of days to asses how many steps you are walking currently. Then, try to increase this by 10%; so if you are walking 6,000 steps, add another 600 and so on. Set small goals and increase your challenges gradually until you reach 10,000 daily steps and more. You might also want to divide your day into sections; morning, afternoon and evening, and try to fit in a short (or long) walk at each stage.

Really challenge yourself it small ways – leave home five minutes earlier and bump up your step rate by walking a little longer to work, take the stairs and shun the lift or use the bottom step for a five-minute step workout.  Keep your pedometer ticking over by going for the tea/coffee yourself; try pacing the platform station while you wait for your train and attack everyday jobs like housework with gusto! Add to this a good, brisk walk (your dog will love you for it!) and you’ll easily reach your goals, but you will have to set aside some extra time. 

Fit for all

To ensure that most adults can be involved, the organisation, ‘10,000 Steps’, has trialled a way by which people in wheelchairs can participate too. It involves attaching an odometer (available from bike shops) to a wheelchair; the distance travelled can then be tracked. Entering a distance to the online step log converts distance into steps; otherwise 1km is equivalent to about 1250 steps.

Here’s more about pedometers…

  • Pedometers vary in price and in quality, but most have a digital display that tells you how many steps you have taken.
  • Every forwards or backward movement is measured – a ‘hammer’ hits a sensor which then activates the counter, totting up the number of steps you take.
  • Some pedometers allow you to set the length of your stride.
  • You can reset the counter at the end of each day.
  • Some pedometers can calculate the total number of steps taken and give you an average for each day over a week.
  • Some pedometers give you an estimate of calories burned.
  • Some pedometers speak to you, letting you know when you reach milestones of say 1,000 steps or more.
  • Pedometers usually run on battery power, so towards the end of the life of the battery, you might find your machine becomes less accurate. Some newer versions are solar powered.
  • You can buy your pedometer from department stores, sports shops or online

Convinced? Step to it!