21289 steps…. the average number of steps I took yesterday as shown by my Fitbit, an app that came with my iPhone, and an app I downloaded later. Three ways to count steps!!! That does not include the Runtastic app that analyzes distance, time, pace, average pace, and a dozen other fitness markers. Having four ways to “anal-ize” my steps might be excessive. I might be more obsessive or anal retentive than I credit myself. Or I don’t trust my Fitbit.
Taking the time to average my number of steps from my three tracking apps might be a symptom of my peculiar brand of insanity. Even my insanity has insanities. Taking 21289 steps might be excessive, period. Some of my steps were not easy. The morning after my knees decries my brutality…and stupidity. Where did I put my Tylenol?
21289 steps are over twice the recommended number of steps the fitness gods say should be our fitness goal. The fitness “gold” standard, ten thousand steps accompanied by gothic organ music.
One of the more inquisitive voices in my head asked, “Why is it ten thousand steps…why not 9999 steps or 10001 steps? Why can’t we be fit eating a slab of bacon?” The call to wander down a pig trail was strong. “Indeed, why are ten thousand steps the fitness gold standard?”
“Turns out, it is not based on anything scientific!” …or should I say, it did not start out that way. Ten thousand steps were nothing more than a marketing ploy.
“There doesn’t appear to be any scientific basis for the idea that 10,000 steps should be everyone’s daily fitness goal”, according to I-Min Lee, professor in the Department of Epidemiology at Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health. I quoted Ms. Lee but understand, there are other studies that parrot her.
Ten Thousand steps turn out to be a marketing strategy, propaganda? Lie? Shades of the shades of the parental phrase, “drink your milk so you’ll have strong bones.” That propaganda certainly sold more milk. No really. Calcium and Vitamin D are good for you but do not guarantee strong bones. While we are exploding myths, “Superman couldn’t have turned coal into a diamond either.” What?
In the early 1960s, a Japanese company introduced their pedometer with the interesting name, manpo-kei. Interesting? Hell, I can’t even pronounce it. I can however translate it, “10,000-step meter.” “man” stands for 10,000, “po” for step and “kei” for gauge. “Well, ain’t that the catfish in the trap?” (Southern idiom for surprise)
Okay, before you go out and trash your pedometers and fitness trackers and trade them for a bacon wrapped cheeseburger, do not. Studies made since the 1960s bear out the science behind ten thousand steps…not as a “gold” standard, but a worthy and attainable goal.
Without boring you anymore than usual, in a 2010 “step” study, it was found, on an average the Japanese walk 7,168 per day and the Swiss at 9,650 per day. A 2004 study showed Amish men “pickin’ ‘em up” at an average of 18,425 steps a day. Wow, I outwalked an Amish man yesterday. All three of these samples are healthier as an overall population than your average American. And yes, there are other studies from other places and demographics that agree with this.
In the same 2010 study, Americans averaged less than five thousand steps per day, and Americans are getting fatter, and dying sooner than most “advanced” nations. I know, our diet doesn’t help either. Bacon, bacon, bacon!!!! I admit I would rather be sedentary with a BLT in my mouth than going out in the wee morning hours or rain and hoofing it for three or four miles. I do not walk in the rain if I can help it. There are limits to my obsession.
My 2006 heart attack changed my outlook but not my desires. There is nothing more sensual than disrobing a wax paper wrapped bacon cheeseburger on a soft sesame seed bun. The tomato and onion slices, along with lettuce peeking seductively out from the edges of the bun. Tantalizingly and teasingly licking the juices running down my fingers. Fried onion rings looking on quietly awaiting the orgy. “Was it good for you,” I asked my taste buds…it was until I felt the tightening in my chest. It was not desire and there was no passionate release…until the four stints were “surfed” into my blocked arteries.
Ten thousand steps became my daily obsession, but my neurotic fascination with the number did not begin that way. My first post heart attack walk was one third of a mile, seven or eight hundred steps at best. My legs felt like over cooked spaghetti, my perspiration resembled Niagara Falls after a hurricane, my respiration sounded like an overworked steam locomotive. My bride had to walk back and bring the car to get me back home. She wondered aloud, “Should I take you to the emergency room or the funeral home?” “Thanks hon, just get me in the house and let me die in peace.”
I didn’t die and have come a long way since that day. My screaming knees do not let me run any longer, my dreams of marathons are mute, but I walk twenty to twenty-five miles a week and average ten thousand steps six out of seven days. Most days Tylenol takes the edge off my efforts, and I am marginally productive.
Whether ten thousand steps were based upon science originally or not does not really matter. Get up and out, move, stay healthy. Move, move, move not bacon, bacon, bacon!
Don Miller writes on various subjects and has recently released his second “Drunken Irishman Saloon” tale. It can be purchased or downloaded at https://www.amazon.com/s?k=Long+ride+to+paradise+Don+Miller&ref=nb_sb_noss
To access his authors page go to https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR0podOBekn70hQc7jZnq2H5vZVw-3P7aKLsRI1slX-lVK-vWml-uR2KYJU