Life is a lot of running around (or how I get my 10,000 steps per day)

photo-160My 7-year-old asked for a step counter for his birthday. I got him a Fitbit Zip, which he then promptly lost. But I was intrigued enough by the idea that I bought myself one. I was curious how much activity I was averaging, and if the Fitbit would encourage me to get more.

I now know the answer to the first question. I do a lot of running around. I started wearing the Fitbit on Sunday this past weekend, and it was not a day that would seem to be particularly active. I did not do any “exercise” — no runs, no walks. I didn’t do any errands. I went strawberry picking but that wasn’t particularly active because I parked by the hay wagon, took the hay wagon to the fields and then didn’t venture that far into the fields due to whiny children. That only added about 1000 steps.

Yet I still managed to top 11,000 steps for the day, and that’s even with not wearing the Fitbit for a pool trip. My life just seems to involve a lot of running around. I go up and down the stairs a lot. Unloading the groceries from my husband’s car when he got home involved a lot of steps. We ate dinner outside, and so I probably made at least 4 trips out to the deck table bringing things, and at least 4 trips back inside when we were done. Putting the kids to bed involved going back down stairs twice — once to find a new toothbrush, once to get two clean cups for water. I watered my garden and planted two new plants, but I didn’t even do that much intense yard work.

I guess it’s good to know that my daily activity easily hits the 10,000 steps we’re supposed to log each day, and will no doubt be higher on days I go for decent runs, though it’s somewhat discouraging too. I got this Fitbit in part because I’d been telling myself that since moving from New York, I wasn’t incorporating enough movement into my life. I was no longer walking briskly to the subway. I was no longer walking my son the quarter mile to his preschool, and the distance from my garage into my house is less than I’d walk with a cab dropping me off in front of my building and then me walking to the elevator and to my apartment. Because my life lacked this active structure, I told myself that’s why I’m carrying around an extra few pounds that I cannot still claim is “baby weight” from my 2.5 year old daughter. If I got a step counter and made sure I got the 10,000 steps a day, it would just disappear!

Except I’m already getting the 10,000 steps. So if I actually intend to change anything (not entirely clear) I’ll either have to up the target to 15,000 or more, or pay a lot more attention to what I eat. Which I kind of knew, but I sort of hoped the answer would be different.

Do you track your activity? What have you discovered?

25 thoughts on “Life is a lot of running around (or how I get my 10,000 steps per day)

  1. “pay a lot more attention to what I eat”. yup. I came to this conclusion recently (after 2 years of denial and baby-blaming). There is a difference between “early 30s” and “mid-late 30s” metabolism. My husband started tracking his calories recently and I may have to do it too. It was more fun to track steps. I still eat the amount I did 10 years ago, and I’m slowly gaining. I need to nip it in the bud.

    1. Same here…I’ve just entered the latter half of my 30s and the scale was sloooooowly creeping upward despite the fact that I know I get more than 10,000 steps in over the course of a day.

      My husband and I pretty much stopped eating sugar this past month, though, and the creep has stopped and has headed downward.

      (I am still eating a little piece of very dark chocolate after lunch and dinner, though!)

      1. @Judy- I keep in mind Nora Ephron’s lament that she wished she’d worn a bikini the entire year she was 26 — and her admonition to anyone young to put one on now and don’t take it off until you’re 34.

  2. My counting steps experience has been pretty similar. I think if I want to lose weight at this point I need to also add gain muscle to burn more calories, but my major issue is probably my diet– I don’t think I downsized my intake enough once I wasn’t burning tons of calories breastfeeding (years ago now) or my portions since the baby/ toddler years where I’d eat more at one sitting not knowing when the next opportunity to sit might be!

    I do love my Fitbit though– I’ve found it’s especially good for giving myself challenges in short spurts. For example, I’ll spend ten minutes walking back and forth briskly in my basement while I listen to music or a podcast to get an extra 1,000 steps. I am also grudgingly beginning to pay attention to the “calories burned” display to regulate the input/output.

    1. @Anjanette- yes, I’ll have to pay attention to that too. For some reason, I’m having trouble syncing the device, which is a little strange. It’s only 2 days old!

      I should add in some pacing – the issue with work is that I’m always typing (taking notes from phone calls or writing) so I’m never on the phone but not writing, a time when it would be easier to pace. I’ll have to figure out some other pacing times. I could up my goal to 15k steps and maybe make some progress.

      1. My husband has a similar workday to yours I think, and he swears by his treadmill desk. At 3mph or so it still takes a while to accumulate steps, but over the course of the day it adds up. He doesn’t use during serious writing, but he can read and answer emails and type or write notes during conference calls using it. It might be a good investment for your office in the long run.

  3. Yep on the eating. I find that I fall back into eating ruts — like having to have a sandwich AND potato chips for lunch. Or eating cookies as a snack in the afternoon. The truth is that when I weighed 5 lbs less I was either a) training for a 1/2 ironman and working in a warehouse (think 20K steps per day or the equivalent), or b) eating A LOT less (one slice of pizza for lunch, not two, and no snacks ever). I think metabolism slowdown with age is real…. but that it has a much smaller impact than those other two things.

    So, I would suggest keeping a(n honest) calorie diary for a few days, and then seeing what seems cuttable. If there isn’t anything you want to/can cut easily — well, I don’t think you *need* to lose weight for health reasons, so you could reasonably decide that you don’t want to cut something out. If there is something, try making that one minor change for a month or so and see if it sticks and if it makes a difference.

    1. @oldmdgirl – mmm…potato chips. I know I developed some bad habits when training for a marathon several years ago. I was also nursing a baby, and between the two I really could eat whatever I wanted. Of course, it didn’t last forever.

      1. Isn’t that the truth? Breastfeeding was that way for me too…I ate a LOT and still lost tons of weight post pregnancy (a little too much, actually! I was always a bit underweight by the time I stopped nursing my babies.)

        1. True for me as well. Breastfeeding kept me 5lbs below my pre-preggo weight at a ridiculously low BMI. I know I’m supposed to fake-complain about how that was “unhealthy” or something, but I have to be honest — it was pretty awesome.

  4. Counting steps has not been as helpful to me as tracking the measurements of my waist, hips, thighs, etc. I have noticed if my habits are healthier for the week I tend to be rewarded when I measure.

  5. Yep, this is actually how I feel about my Jawbone Up. I love it. (And I would have hated to not know how many steps I took on that trip to the pool!)

  6. I’ve had a fitbit since October – my HMO had a special deal on the Flex model, so my husband and I both got them. I don’t think I’ve had any real surprises from the step counts, but while I was expecting my one day a week of working from home to be the lowest, I wasn’t expecting the difference to be as great as it is — it’s impossible to get to 10k on those days without a concerted effort, but I can easily get there most other days.
    The interesting thing to me is how effortlessly the step count started going up when it started to be light out longer.

  7. I also got a step counter when my kids got them as gifts. I decided I wanted one too, and bought one for myself, and at this point I’m the only one still using it. When I was working at my former job I used to take public transit to work, and then my steps averaged about 7500 per day, even if I didn’t make an effort to exercise. I could get to 10K if I did exercise. Since leaving that job, however, I am only averaging 6500 per day on non-exercise days. I’m impressed by people who can make 10000 without concerted effort!

    I noticed a few things: my highest month is August, when I go on vacation. Last August I had several days between 15K and 20K, although my highest was still my 25th college reunion (21K+), which included the P-rade.

    My lowest total months are, not surprisingly, January -March. I decided to try to remedy this by getting an elliptical machine for the basement. Results are mixed–I’d rather walk outside.

    I’m trying to increase my activity level for reasons other than weight loss–more energy, better muscle tone, less winded, etc. I weighed more when I was working at my old job and had more daily steps, because I engaged in more stress-eating in front of the computer. I also went out for lunches and drinks with co-workers. Now I do less of all that, and it made a difference.

  8. My husband has a similar workday to yours and he loves his treadmill desk. It takes a while to rack up steps at 3mph or so, but he can read and answer emails and take notes during phone calls at that pace. He doesn’t use when he is seriously writing, but it still it adds up over the course of the workday.

  9. I think diet is so much more important than exercise when it comes to weight loss (weight maintenance may be a different story!). No one LIKES to hear that (especially my patients!) but it’s so incredibly easy to ‘out-eat’ your workouts in mere minutes. It’s so hard because man – we are SET UP to gain with the abundance, convenience, and types of foods out there.

    I also think as we get older doing some resistance-based exercise becomes more and more important – not just running, but strength. particularly if just looking your best is a main goal (it is for me, not going to lie!). 🙂

    1. Yes, absolutely true. My problem is that when I do exercise (and I try to do it regularly), I am RAVENOUS. I really do think counting calories and keeping track is essential for weight loss.
      I hate that I have to do this (I guess I’ve been REALLY lucky until now, able to eat whatever I want and not gain, as long as I kept reasonably active).

  10. We just started doing our summer fitness challenge at the university where I teach, and I started wearing a pedometer on my “writing day.” I was a little horrified at just how sedentary my writing day was yesterday, but given that I was a sloth and still topped 5,300 steps I am eager to see if a more typical day means I will get my 10,000. If not I may need to look into those “treadmill desks”!

  11. I am researching those wristbands (what is the proper name for the category?), and ran across one review that said Fitbit had higher estimates for steps/movement than its competitors.

    Also, it sounds like you may not have tracked steps in your NYC days. Who knows you have been at 12,000 steps?

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