Have you ever heard someone at the office say, ‘gotta get my 10,000 steps in’, as they cheerily passed by? For some reason, I felt like I was hearing it more often lately. But, it wasn’t until a co-worker of mine, started saying it as part of a running joke that I wondered just how feasible 10,000 daily steps actually was. Sure, I knew that I could rattle off that many steps in a day if I went for a targeted walk/run (about 8km or 5 miles in distance based on an average person’s stride), but that wasn’t the point. I wondered, was it actually a realistic goal for the average person during an average day, in the same sense that the cliché seems to insinuate? So, I got myself a step-counter…

Day one:  A Monday. A regular work day, where my goal was to not put in any additional steps than I normally would in a day. I clipped the step counter to my belt the moment I got dressed in the morning. As I walked out of the house and left for work, I glanced down to check my step count and I’d already logged almost 400 steps. I thought, ’10K should be a snap!’

By the time I got to my desk, after the 8-9 minute ‘steady pace’ walk from the parking lot, I checked again. I was just over 1,100 steps – well on my way! But, even though it seemed like the steps were adding up quickly to start, over the rest of the morning I didn’t manage to log that many more. Trips to the coffee machine, to onsite meetings, the copy room, etc… weren’t really adding up. By noon, I was only sitting around 2,000 steps and by the end of the day, which for me is about 10:00pm, I’d only logged 4,471 steps! A far, far cry from 10,000.

Day two: Another normal work day – a Tuesday. I resolved myself to hold firm to just letting the day, be the day, meaning that I wouldn’t pursue any additional steps beyond my normal movement. Long story made short, at the end day, with trips from my desk to various locals around the office, and then around home again, at 10:00pm I’d logged only 5,349 steps. This was enough to tell me that, at least in my case, as a ‘9-5 office worker’,  on any given ‘normal’ day I was falling way, way short of that 10,000 daily steps.

Day three: I decided to put in some additional effort. I started the day out normally, and arrived at my desk at around 1,200 steps, which I knew was pretty standard. At 10am though, I took a break and went for a walk. I walked the full length of the building that I work in, which took nearly 12 mins. I then repeated this again at the lunch hour, and once again in the afternoon around 3:30pm. As I left work for the day, I was over 7,000 steps and pretty confident I had a good chance to make 10,000. But, it didn’t happen… Once I was home, I only logged another 1000 steps or so, to cap out at 8,352. Close, but no cigar.

Day four:My day ended up being much too busy to get any extra walks in, so I finished up with a modest 5,984 total steps.

Day five: I woke up resolved to log 10,000 steps. This is now Friday. The morning started out well, with one additional walk through the building, and then one more during lunch. But after that, I got busy again, and couldn’t justify time to get away from my desk. By the end of the day, I was frustrated to see the step counter read only 7,699 steps. This was proving more challenging than I thought it would be.

Day six: Now more committed than ever, I woke up again, on Monday morning, to start the week with a successful 10,000 step day. Again, I was at my desk with around 1,200 steps in the bag. I managed to get in two walks through the building in the morning, and then another one during my lunch break. The afternoon afforded me another chance to log two more tours around the building (yes this was getting boring). As I left for the day, already with over 9,100 steps logged, I knew I was finally going to get to my 10,000 steps. And yes, by 10:00pm that night when I unclipped the step counter, it finally read 10,272 steps…

So, what did I learn from such a ridiculous experiment? Well, a couple things:

  1. I am not anywhere near as active during my day as I thought. I really do sit for most of it, and more often than not, for extended periods… This isn’t healthy for all kinds of reasons, the worst of which of course is the inflammation you develop from consistently sitting… I need to be more mindful of this and make an effort to move around more during my normal work day. And this brings me to a point I need to make here. The real benefit of 10,000 steps a day, isn’t in sitting on your butt all day and then setting out for an hour walk in the evening. Instead, the real value of getting your 10,000 steps in a day, is to do it in addition to any workout you’re already logging. By spreading out your 10,000 steps throughout the day, you’re forced to avoid sitting for long periods and the unhealthy inflammation this creates. Here is a link to an interesting article on the importance of consistently fighting inflammation, especially as we age.
  2. Getting 10,000 steps in, without just going for a long multi-km, daily walk/hike/run, is harder than I thought it would be. For someone like me who works in an office setting, 10,000 daily steps just doesn’t happen. In fact, only around half that does…
  3. The day I did get 10,000 steps in, despite the fitness I have from my usual training for cycling, I hate to admit it, but it was enough of an effort to make me notice it they next day. So, with that in mind, if a person like me, or let’s say more like someone my parent’s age (60), did this everyday, they’d be in good walking shape – that’s for sure.
  4. On the whole I felt better when I was taking a break to get in a short walk in mid-mornings and the mid-afternoons. In general, I felt more alert, clear-headed and in a better mood. I found it also helped loosen me up after hard training efforts on the bike. Sitting at my desk for extended periods can really cause me stiffen up and limits circulation, which is going to hinder recovery. This is just another reason to get off my butt a couple times a day and get moving.
So, to sum up, I found that trying to fit in 10,000 steps throughout my day was actually pretty challenging, mostly from a time and behavior standpoint. My 9-5 office work environment just doesn’t naturally support it. I needed to make the effort. But when I did, I felt good and I know that if I could find time to get even 8,000 or 9,000 steps in a day on a regular basis, I’d be better off for it, in many ways.