Step, Step, Step Weight Away

By Kimberly Dawn Neumann

August 25, 2005

Looking for a way to step up your weight- loss efforts? In addition to calories, try counting daily strides. It seems that logging 10,000 or more steps a day may keep love handles at bay.

Scores of studies are now showing that pinning a pedometer to your pants may minimize your girth. In fact, research published in the May 2004 Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise showed a significant relationship between pedometer-tracked steps per day and the body composition of middle-aged women.

The women who consistently clocked 10,000 or more steps per day had lower percentages of body fat, body mass indices (BMI) and waist-to-hip circumferences.

Some more compelling evidence for upping your step count comes from a recent study of the Amish. These farmers, who live much as their ancestors did 150 years ago, eat a diet that is quite high in fat and sugar, but have an obesity rate of only 4 percent, as compared to 31 percent of the general United States population. The difference? A much higher physical activity level. When tracked on pedometers, the Amish logged an average of 14,000-18,000 steps per day (with some sporting numbers as high as 51,000). In comparison, the average office worker takes only about 2,000-3,000 steps per day.

The simple act of wearing a pedometer has also been scientifically proven to increase the wearers’ awareness of their daily activity and correspondingly escalate exercise levels, a fact that is of great significance considering that 70% of the U.S. population gets an inadequate amount of exercise.

With even the President’s Council of Physical Fitness and Sports supporting step tracking, it seems that pedometers are becoming the new “hip” accessory. Interested in joining the “in” crowd while weight whittling? Here are some tips:

Starting Step Tracking

1. Acquire a pedometer. Decent versions are available for $20-$30 at most sporting goods stores. Or pick one up at your next Weight Watchers meeting.

2. Check for accuracy. To quickly assess if your gadget is over- or underestimating strides, walk a set distance several times while verbally counting your steps. Compare the number you speak to the number on your pedometer to get an estimate of how closely calibrated they are and adjust your daily numerical goals accordingly.

3. Determine your average. 10,000 steps a day may be too lofty a goal for some people right out of the gate (that’s about 5 miles). A good starting point is to count your steps for three days and take an average. Then shoot to add 2,000 additional steps per day to your baseline number. Eventually challenge yourself to go higher.

4. Join the Club. If you’re looking for motivation, find other pedometer users on the message boards, and compare notes.

5. Don’t leave home without it. The more aware you are of your numbers, the more likely you are to keep active throughout the day.

Everything Counts
Check out these step equivalents (you can boost your daily count by being more active in other areas as well).

1 Mile = 2,000 average steps
1 block = 200 average steps
10 minutes of walking = 1,200 steps on average
Bicycling or swimming = 150 steps per minute
Weight lifting = 100 steps per minute
Rollerskating = 200 steps per minute

Sneaky Steps
Get creative when it comes to adding clicks to your counter.

1. Marching minutes. Every 30 minutes, get up from your desk, easy chair, or wherever and walk in place for 1-5 minutes.

2. Axe the “drive through.” Park your car and get out to walk into the bank, pharmacy or fast food joint.

3. Reconnect in person. Instead of sending off an e-mail, walk to your coworker’s office or neighbor’s house and talk to them live!

4. Hide the remote. That way you’ll have to get up to change the channel. Make a practice of walking around the house during commercial breaks.

5. Pace! Don’t stand still while watching the spin cycle, waiting for the bus, or talking in a meeting. If anyone asks, just say you think better on your feet!

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