OK, raise your hands: How many of you have heard the long-time emphasis about aiming to take 10,000 steps a day?
OK. Now (and be honest), how many of you actually regularly take 10,000 steps a day?
Uh-huh. Don't see too many hands. And I admit mine ain't up either.
The Can't Get Anywhere Issues
When I first started giving this advice (and I don't even remember how many years ago) I really couldn't figure out how most folks could manage so many steps. I mean MAYBE in a week but every day?
There were two issues:
Physical capabilities--This is especially true as we age. I can't tell you how often I've heard older folks who've turned to non-abusive exercises 'cause their bodies can only do so much...even in mid-life, let alone in the 75+ age group. They might be able to handle pool walking without straining knees (often the biggest issue). And many are finding chair exercises (like chair yoga or aerobics) a blessing. But let's face it: these are not the kind of things that are going to achieve 10,000 steps.
Environmental limitations--This New Yorker never understood why people had to drive everywhere, even begging to learn by age 16. I walked to school, to the library, to the grocery, the post office and more. Who needed a car? I was ALWAYS walking. (And try hopping up and down stairs within the NYC subway system. THAT'S exercise.)
But since I moved to Baltimore? Forget it. The first complex in which we lived had about five feet of sidewalk and then everything else was driving area. Even in our new locale where we do have sidewalks...well it's boring. Almost no one else is walking around and once you walk up/down a few blocks it gets tedious.
Plus when the weather isn't nice? Let's be honest. Most of us ain't going to button up to our noses to exercise in freezing temps or sweat for hours when it hits 80 degrees (let alone hotter). My hubby tried walking in the mall to avoid climate issues but it didn't help. He got bored as can be after a few visits and besides...he was passing all the fast food!
Of course both these issues still block stalwart stepping.
So What's the Change?
Now an article in a major magazine (and I'll give you the link at the end) says "Hmm. Do we REALLY need so many steps daily?" (Of course that's not an exact quote.)
It translated a clinical study that essentially said that cutting the previously recommended stepping numbers to about half should help; in fact we really stop getting help by 7500 steps. And what's really great from my POV (as someone reporting on senior health care) this study featured 17,000 women who spanned the ages of 62 to 101. That's right: some participants were past the centenarian mark!
Ultimately the expert quoted in the news posting offered key advice: don't worry--and don't feel guilty--about not meeting 10,000 steps or even the shorter number. Just get moving.
So try this, based on a different recommendation I recently saw: walk during TV commercials. Just go up and down past your couch, or back/forth in a hallway. Heck, march in place if you need to hang onto a chair. Even that can help your health.
To read the news story it's here, from Time magazine. And then check other insights about reaching seniors on this site. There are others here in the blog section of course, and then the Baby Boomers tab. Also learn about our LoveLasts service.