What did I gain (and lose) by walking 10,000 steps daily for 5 months

What did I gain (and lose) by walking 10,000 steps daily for 5 months

On January 2, 2021, a friend told me that their New Year’s resolution was to walk 10,000 steps a day. It was the end of winter and I’m still feeling the effects of the champagne hangover from the night celebrating the end of 2020.

When they asked if I wanted to try a destination with them, I said an emphatic yes. After all, being frozen in New York City and the thought of wandering aimlessly for hours outside doesn’t sound appealing, no matter what its alleged health benefits.

A quick glance at my iPhone’s Health app motivates me a bit more, though, as the built-in pedometer tells me I’ve walked an average of just 5,361 steps a day in 2020 as a result of lockdown and working from home amid the pandemic.

Throughout January and February, I made several half-hearted attempts to complete my 10,000 step goal, sometimes questioning how my friend found herself so dedicated to daily practice. Taking a daily walk is one thing, but the long hours it takes to meet that amount, especially after a long day working from the couch, can seem daunting.

In March, I completely gave up, with my daily workout consisting of little more than a trip to the grocery store, or sometimes, nothing at all.

In August, though, two things changed: I saw my friends for the first time in months, where I witnessed their 50-pound loss firsthand, and I stepped on the scales for the first time in a year.

While it may be superficial to admit that my motivation was fueled by the change in my appearance as a result of more than a year in various lockdown states, it was the push I needed to change my lifestyle.

On August 9, I finished my first official day of walking with a step count of 10,200, at which point I was immediately struck by a migraine so bad I had to lie down. Day two was no different, prompting me to ponder whether my body wasn’t interested in walking that distance, or whether the pounding footsteps on the sidewalk had triggered my headaches.

A year without exercise meant I didn’t consider the impact that a five-mile walk in the heat of August would have on my hydration levels.

After I increased my water intake, I found that, as far as health and fitness goals go, walking 10,000 steps a day is actually a realistic, and achievable, goal for someone who previously had little interest in exercise. .

From a marked improvement in my mental health to a 15 pound weight loss, here’s what I experienced in my five months of walking 10,000 steps a day.

Although I didn’t set my goals with a focus on improving mental well-being, it wasn’t long before I was feeling the positive effects the practice had on my general mindset.

It may not be immediately obvious to me, but the length of time inside during the pandemic has left me, like many others, feeling isolated from the outside world.

When I force myself to go outside every day to finish my stride, it reminds me of everything I miss about the bustling city, which I watch slowly return.

Fresh – or fresh for New York City – air, and the opportunity to be outside have also had a positive effect on my mental health, while traveling provides a wider opportunity to connect with friends and family, as I open up my contact list for calls. old phone during these long hours.

Now, every day at 5:45 p.m., a call is made to one of my contacts asking for a greeting: “Are you walking?”

While the positive mental impact of exercise was new to me, considering I have preferred a sedentary lifestyle for the past 27 years, the effects are well documented by researchers.

According to a 2011 study on the relationship between physical activity and mental health, exercising at any level is associated with better mental and physical health. While I usually try to maintain a steady 3.2 mph, there are days I celebrate reaching my goal altogether.

A recent study by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health also found that physical activity is a useful way to prevent depression, with researchers finding that “doing more physical activity appears to protect against the development of depression”, and that “​​replacing sitting with 15 minutes of heart-pumping activity such as running, or with one hour of moderately vigorous activity, was enough to produce an average increase in accelerometer data that is associated with a lower risk of depression.”

This exercise is also a great stress reliever, as I have noticed I spend less time trying to fall asleep due to fatigue from physical exertion.

As well as improving my mental health, walking has had a real impact on my appearance over the past five months, with my legs and arms feeling slimmer and the appearance of cellulite on my thighs reduced.

When I stepped on the scales for the first time, a month after I started walking daily, I was completely shocked to find I had lost six pounds. Since I started walking in August, I’ve lost a total of 15 pounds, a goal I’ve managed to achieve without making significant changes to my diet.

Interestingly, my experience contradicts a 2020 study, which found that walking 10,000 steps a day will not prevent weight gain, and that tracking steps “will not mean maintaining weight or preventing weight gain.”

At the time, the researchers stated that the findings showed that “exercise alone is not always the most effective way to lose weight.”

There was also an imperceptible change to my physical health from walking, as it became easy to complete my daily goals, and thousands of extra steps, without feeling physically strained. Climbing the hill that left me out of breath in July is now no more difficult than walking down 5th Ave.

According to past research, the exercise also has the added benefit of improving my overall health, with a 2020 study finding that taking 8,000 to 12,000 steps a day was associated with a lower risk of death from any cause.

A 2019 study also found that, among older women, those who walked 4,400 steps a day had a lower death rate than those who walked less.

However, while common health and weight loss theory suggests that we should aim to take 10,000 steps a day, 10,000 is actually a random number believed to have been chosen by a Japanese watch company in the 1960s to sell pedometers.

But despite its consumerist origins, the figure has become a useful goal for me over the last five months as I have embarked on a journey to improve my health.

For more information on walking, see us The 10 best hiking boots that make treks a walk in the park

This article was originally published in January 2022

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