Walking or moving, on a daily basis, has been a topic I’ve written about a number of times on this blog. My walking streak will hit 450 days today. The streak began on December 15, 2019. A few statistics of the streak:
- 450 days (assuming I reach the goal later today!)
- 5.8 million steps (per my trusty Fitbit Versa 2 watch and app.)
- 12,800 steps per day
- 2.735 miles
- 6.1 miles per day on average
- Weight is 13 pounds lower than at the beginning
- Improved blood pressure
- Healthy cholesterol levels
Today is the 360th day of work-from-home at Mercer Capital. That pandemic-mandated policy began on March 14, 2020, which was almost one full year ago.
I did not start the walking streak because of the pandemic. I was at day 91 of walking when the pandemic hit. But the pandemic has certainly been a source of encouragement for me to keep walking every day. Together with all the walking, I instituted a “one plate per meal rule” early in the pandemic. No seconds. Well, almost never. 🙂
1) Why Should Anyone Walk?
According to the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC), adults who do not maintain a balanced diet and who do not engage in regular exercise activities tend to gain between 0.6 pounds and 1.7 pounds per year, and that over 40% of the U.S. population is obese.
That doesn’t sound like a lot but do the math. A 30-year-old person who gains 0.6 pounds per year will gain 18 pounds by the age of 60. If that same person gained 1.7 pounds per year, he or she would gain 51 pounds over that 30 year period.
One of the reasons I began the walking streak is that my weight had increased almost 15 pounds between my time in graduate school many years ago and December 15, 2019. That weight was about the peak for my lifetime, which I had hit a time or two in prior years. My blood pressure was up a bit and my cholesterol was high. I had had a health scare in early 2017, and I suppose I had been trying to forget about it.
By mid-December 2019, I was committed to making some positive changes in my exercise and diet habits. So I started walking and, as readers who have followed this know, I began playing more pickleball. If you don’t know what pickleball is, take a look at this video.
I knew from a lifetime of off and on exercise and sports that regularity was a key to maintaining weight and health. This realization was ultimately a key motivator to get me walking.
2) What Does it Take?
Developing a regular walking program, or movement as I prefer to call it, requires, at least for me, honing in on four attitudes. Some may not think of these as attitudes, but you will get the picture.
- Commitment. “I wish, I’d like, next week, next year” are thoughts that just won’t cut it if you want to develop a movement program. Commitment can be defined as an agreement or pledge to do something in the future. The problem with a movement program is that it is not done in the future. Movement has to occur today and every day. Commitment has to be current.
- Desire. You have to want to do it to walk consecutively for a long period of days. There will be days when the only thing that will get you up and going is that internal desire to do it.
- Focus. Focus on the movement goal every day. If you keep your goal at the forefront of your thinking, you will find a way to reach it every day.
- Will to finish. As the end of a day approaches, you may have already reached your step goal for the day. That’s always a good feeling. On the other hand, you may not have reached it. If you are short, you will need to summon the will to finish, regardless of whether it is cold or hot outside, or raining or snowing, or you are a bit tired. What I can say, personally, is that when those days come and I am short of the goal, I always feel much better and personally satisfied when I go ahead and finish.
- Luck. There is a certain amount of luck in keeping a walking streak going. Illnesses or accidents happen to the point that we cannot walk 10,000 steps. Had I started my streak in December of 2018, it would not have lasted long. A nice lady sped into our neighborhood as my wife and I were walking home from dinner on New Year’s Eve. She did, however, run over my right foot and it broke my big toe fairly nicely. No walking 10,000 steps for three months. If that happens, you just have to start again.
3) What Are Some Strategies to Keep Walking?
If my experience is indicative, there is no one strategy that will ensure that you can begin and maintain a walking or movement program. Whether your goal is 5 miles per day, 10,000 steps per day, or a combination as it is for me, think about what it takes. For example, walking four miles will take many people 60 to 80 minutes, depending on pace (or more or less). If you take 4-5 short walks of 5-15 minutes during a day, you will get to the same 4 miles. I say four miles because if you move at all during the day, you should get the fifth mile.
Some thoughts or strategies that help keep me going include:
- Focus on the goal of movement. When I wake up each morning, I begin to formulate a plan for the day to reach my walking goal.
- Take a walk before breakfast. It is a great feeling to know that you have two miles, three miles, or more or less, in the can before the day gets started. Yesterday morning, for example, I walked two miles before breakfast.
- Take a 20-30 minute walk after lunch. The world will go on turning even if you stop for a few minutes to take care of yourself.
- Take several short walks during the day. At work, I often get up a couple of times in the morning and walk for 5-10 minutes. I try to walk for 10-15 minutes after lunch, and then, walk a couple of more times in the afternoon.
- Engage in an active sport. My sport of choice is pickleball. After my two-mile walk before breakfast yesterday, I played pickleball for a bit more than two hours. With very little other movement, I’m sitting at 13,000 steps and a bit more than 6 miles for the day. Another day in the can.
- Run in place to get extra steps. During the recent snow and ice storm in Memphis, there were two days that I simply did not leave the house. But I got my steps by running in place and reading a novel on my phone to cut down on the boredom. Remember what I said above about commitment, focus, desire, and will to finish!
In all likelihood, it will take a number of these strategies to meet your movement goals should you decide to give yourself that personal challenge.
4) Is a Walking Program Right for You?
Whether you decide to take up a regular walking program is entirely up to you. If you do, begin realistically. It is better to achieve a goal of 5 thousand steps per day for a period of time than to set a goal of 10 thousand steps or more and fall short. Momentum is a key. If you gain momentum at one level, the odds are better that you can increase to a higher desired level.
If you want to talk about walking or movement, please make comments or observations in the “comments section” in this blog post. If you have a streak of your own going, let our readers know by commenting on what it is and how you are doing it!
As always, be safe and be well.