Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Mid-Week Musings

Photo courtesy of The Aloha Way

Hey, I'd Walk a Million Miles For One Of Your Smiles

Just joshin' about the million miles, but I take the 10,000 steps seriously. That's the number of steps the American Heart Association recommends for the maintenance of good health. How did they settle on 10,000 steps? They inherited it. Yamasa Tokei, a watchmaker, came up with the slogan in 1965. He made and sold a pedometer called the Manpo-Kei, which means means "10,000 step meter." His slogan for the device was, “Let’s walk 10,000 steps a day!” The slogan caught on with Japanese fitness aficionados, and the walking clubs to which they belonged adopted the idea of 10,000 steps a day. In the 1960's the idea found its way to American fitness magazines, including Walking.

So what exactly does 10,000 step programs require of those who commit to the program? Depending on terrain and length of stride, 10,000 steps is a bit less than five miles. For those who are not speed walkers, that amounts to about 90 minutes of brisk walking, and it's twice the distance most people walk in the course of a day. Many recent studies have shown that 30 minutes a day of moderate exercise results in a dramatic increase in health benefits. Moderate exercise can include brisk walking, which is often defined as a pace at which you can carry on a conversation, but are too winded to sing. Current research shows that walking for 30 minutes a day can cause chances of premature death to drop by 20 percent, but, unfortunately, the odds do not triple when the time is increased to an optimal 90 minutes. Why then bother with 10,000 steps? For reasons that are still being analyzed, studies still show that it’s a number that works.

In 2004, Sports Medicine published a study that shows "growing evidence 10,000 steps/day is an amount of physical activity that is associated with indicators of good health,” including lower body fat and blood pressure. There are undeniable benefits that come with program participation, but there is also concern that the program will demoralize the one-in-three individuals who can’t walk 10,000 steps in a day. Some experts would rather see emphasis placed on an incrementally increase in walking rather than a single target number meant to fit all. They all, however, agree that walking more, whether it's for work or leisure, is an easy way of being more active without trying too hard, and setting a goal can be a fun way of increasing the amount of physical activity you do. Walking is one way to build stamina, burn excess calories and contribute to over-all heart health.

To find out how many steps you take each day, buy the simplest and least expensive pedometer you can find. Clip it firmly to your belt or waistband and wear it for the entire day. Whatever your results, knowing how far you can walk in a day will motivate you. Record your daily steps and use your weekly total to create a daily average. Using that average, you can build up your step count gradually, and before you know it, you'll be walking 10,000 steps a day. I've been participating in a formal 10,000 step program for a year now, and I've found that my endurance and energy has incrementally increased. I am less winded when participating in vigorous activity and I've also lost weight and am sleeping better. The real beauty of walking is that it can be done anywhere by anyone who is in reasonably good health and the payback is immediate. Walking 10,000 steps a day is not an official recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Instead, the agency recommends adults engage in 150 minutes of moderate activity a week, such as brisk walking. To meet the CDC's recommendation, you need to walk about 7,000 to 8,000 steps a day, but there is no reason to stop there if you feel you can do more. Why not get up and get started?

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