Ten Thousand Steps

Perhaps you remember the good old-fashioned pedometer. It is a very basic step-counter that preceded the current, more high-tech fitness trackers that seem to be on so many people’s wrists.

It was invented in Japan in the 1960’s.  Japan was gearing up for its first Olympic Games in Tokyo and societal growth seemed to be the order of the day.  Construction boomed, bullet trains moved masses of people, but all these developments and conveniences made it easy for the people to not move their bodies.  Legend has it that a doctor told the company founder that people needed something to motivate them to move, so the founding company developed the world’s first pedometer, called the “Manpo-kei. “Kei” means ‘meter,’ and ‘manpo’ means ‘10,000.’ They liked the way this term seemed to roll off the tongue. Thus, 10,000 steps became the benchmark.

Once this magic number was endorsed by medical researchers, 10,000 steps became the threshold for the desirable goal:  If you make it to 10,000 steps every day, then you are in good shape—figuratively, and literally.  And if you don’t make it, don’t worry.  You’ll make it tomorrow.  And the next day, and the next.

And we all thought the 10,000-step goal was a new thing—at least, I did. 

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Beginning around 2013-14, the current craze took off in America first with the Fitbit®, catapulting our society into the present-day popularity of fitness trackers. There are now high-tech and low-tech trackers, high-priced and low-priced trackers; something for everyone who wants to get on board.  If you are fortunate to have the amazing human ability to walk and perhaps run, then tracking these steps will likely help you make the most of this ability. 

Typically, the tracker is hooked up with your cellphone, perhaps with a downloaded app like mine.  Much of the data is displayed on the face of the tracker on your arm, but the rest of the information is available on your phone. 

This kind of technology makes it easier to hold oneself accountable to fitness goals, which is always a good thing.  For myself, I find it fascinating to see just how many steps I take in an average day.  I normally take a daily morning run/walk, which typically gets me up to about 6,000 steps.  I usually have perhaps 300 already on my meter before I head out the door, mostly from walking back and forth to the coffee pot in the early morning hours. 

After the run, my daily rounds usually get me easily to the 10,000 mark, except when they don’t.  Because I am human, and because I like to be rewarded for my efforts, I like that little buzz on my wrist it gives me when I hit the mark.  If I am close, and I know I won’t get that buzz before midnight unless I head back out the door for a quick walk, then normally, I do.  It may seem childish, but it works.  Adults still need a good job when the job is indeed well done. 

My tracker is a simple one from Amazon, and for me, simple is good.  I am a low-tech person; I don’t need bells and whistles, because I don’t understand them.  I envy those who do, but the end result is always the same.  We both get a boost in reaching our goals.

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  • Motion is lotion.
  • The body achieves what the mind believes.
  • Good things come to those who sweat.
  • Don’t wish for a good body, work for it.
  • Motivation is what gets you started.  Habit is what keeps you going.
  • When you feel like stopping, think about why you started.”
  • No matter how little you go, you are still beating everyone on the couch.

Ten thousand is not a magic number.  It is a nice, even, round number with a lot of zeroes, it rolls easily off the tongue in Japanese, and it has become the benchmark goal for many people in America who wear fitness trackers.  It is a good number, and if it is the number you aspire to—like I do, then it is the perfect number.  If, perhaps, this is easily attainable and you need a bigger challenge, then keep going higher—as long as you can handle it physically.  If this number is too high, then simply set your goal lower. 

If you are physically able, taking a daily, planned walk/run is a good way to get those steps, but there are tricks and strategies that you can weave into your day to increase those steps, including:

  • Park your car at the distant end of the parking lot, instead of the closest space.
  • If you have multiple stops in one area, try to leave the car parked and walk between them. 
  • Split up a task into more steps, such as laundry:  carry two smaller baskets to the laundry room instead of one big one.  Carry your groceries in from the car in three or four trips instead of one or two.
  • Walk during your lunch (or other) break.
  • Take your dog for a walk, and if you don’t have one, offer to take a neighbor’s dog for a walk.
  • Walk around when you are on the phone.
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator.  If the stairs bother your knees, take one step at a time:  step up with your strongest knee, then meet on that step with your other knee. 
  • If you have both a push mower and a riding mower, consider mowing all or part of your lawn with the push mower.  It’s a good overall workout.
  • Watching TV is okay, but get up and walk during the commercials. 
  • Drink more water.  Most of us need to do this anyway, but it will force you to get up and walk to the bathroom.  If you have more than one in your home, go to the one furthest away.

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Movement is the name of the game. Humans are designed to be moving organisms.  Our legs and joints allow us to propel ourselves.  It is a gift not granted, and the best way to say thank you for this gift is to put it to good use.

Ten thousand steps is a nice round number; perhaps it even rolls off the tongue in English, too.  Whatever your goal number is, the tracker will likely help you get there, and get you healthier in the process.