What I gained (and lost) from walking 10,000 steps a day for five months in a row

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

When they asked me if I wanted to try this goal with them, I answered noncommittally yes. After all, it’s cold in New York City, and the idea of ​​walking aimlessly outside for hours doesn’t sound appealing, regardless of the purported health benefits.

However, a quick glance at my iPhone’s Health app was a little more motivating for me, as the built-in pedometer told me that I was only walking an average of 5,361 steps per day in 2020 due to lockdown and working from home. epidemic.

Throughout January and February, I made several half-hearted attempts to reach my 10,000-step goal, sometimes questioning how my friend found himself so focused on his daily exercise routine. Taking a walk every day is one thing, but it seems unbelievable to take hours to meet that number, especially after a day at work on the couch.

By March, I gave up completely and my exercise routine consisted only of trips to the grocery store, or sometimes nothing at all.

In August, however, two things changed: I saw my friends for the first time in months when I saw them lose 50 pounds, and for the first time in a year I set foot on weighing scale.

While it may be superficial to admit that my motives have changed my appearance during over a year of various lockdowns, it was the push I needed to change my lifestyle.

On August 9th, I completed my first official walking day at 10,200 steps, at which point I was immediately overcome by a migraine so severe that I had to lie down. The next day was no different, which prompted me to wonder if my body was just not interested in walking that far, or if the heavy footsteps on the sidewalk were somehow triggering my headaches.

A year of inactivity meant I didn’t consider the impact that walking five miles in the August heat might have had on my hydration levels.

Once I increased my water intake, I found that in terms of health and fitness goals, walking 10,000 steps a day is actually a realistic and achievable goal for someone who was previously less interested in exercise.

From a dramatic improvement in my mental health to losing 15 pounds, this is what I experienced in five months of walking 10,000 steps a day.

While my goals weren’t focused on improving mental health, it wasn’t long before I felt the positive effects of exercise on my general state of mind.

It might not be obvious to me, but I’ve been in it for a long time during the pandemic, like many others, feeling isolated from the outside world.

As I force myself to step out and complete my steps every day, it reminds me of all the things I’ve missed about the bustling city, and I’ve watched it slowly come back.

Fresh — or fresh air in New York City — and opportunities to be outdoors also had a positive impact on my mental health, and walking gave me more opportunities to connect with friends and family as I turned to my Contact lists make long calls during these long hours.

Now, every day at 5:45pm, calling any of my contacts prompts the greeting: “Are you walking?”

While the positive psychological effects of exercise are new to me, the effects have been well documented by researchers considering that I have enjoyed a sedentary lifestyle for the better part of the past 27 years.

According to 2011 study Regarding the link between physical activity and mental health, exercise at any level is associated with better mental and physical health. While I usually try to maintain a steady 3.2 mph, sometimes I celebrate my goal.

recent study Researchers at Harvard’s TH Chan School of Public Health also found that physical activity is an effective way to prevent depression Find “Doing more physical activity appears to protect against depression,” and “replacing sitting with 15 minutes of heart-pounding activity (such as running) or 1 hour of moderate-intensity activity was sufficient to produce an average increase in accelerometer data that associated with a lower risk of depression.”

The exercise is also a reliable stress reliever, as I’ve noticed that due to the physical exertion I’m tired, I’m trying to fall asleep much less often.

In addition to improving my mental health, walking has also had a noticeable effect on my appearance over the past five months, with my legs and arms noticeably thinner and less cellulite on my thighs.

When I first stepped on the scale, a month after I started walking every day, I was really shocked to find that I lost six pounds. Since I started walking in August, I’ve lost a total of 15 pounds, which I’ve managed to achieve without making any major changes to my diet.

Interestingly, my experience contradictory 2020 studywhich found that walking 10,000 steps a day did not prevent weight gain, and that tracking steps “does not translate into weight maintenance or prevention of weight gain.”

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

Walking has also brought unseen changes to my physical fitness as it has become easy to accomplish my daily goals and thousands of extra steps without feeling physically strained. The hike up the mountain where I would be breathless in July is no more difficult now than a stroll down 5th Ave.

According to previous research, this exercise has the added benefit of improving my overall health, 2020 study Taking 8,000 to 12,000 steps a day was found to be associated with a lower risk of death from any cause.

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

However, while common health and weight loss theories suggest that we should strive to take 10,000 steps a day, 10,000 is actually an arbitrary number Believe Selected by a Japanese watch company to sell a pedometer in the 1960s.

But despite its consumerist origins, that number has been a useful target for me over the past five months as I embark on a journey to improve my health.

For more information on walking, check out our 10 Best Hiking Shoes for Hiking in the Park

This article was originally published in January 2022

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