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LucyGransnet (GNHQ) Thu 20-Aug-15 15:07:32

The 10,000 step tyranny

Forget 500 miles, it's all about 10,000 steps a day for author Fanny Blake. Are you a slave to the NHS-recommended 10k a day? Or do you prefer to get your exercise by other means? Running around after grandchildren springs to mind...

Fanny Blake

The 10,000 step tyranny

Posted on: Thu 20-Aug-15 15:07:32


Lead photo

Do you get your 10k a day?

Walking is the new jogging, especially for those of us whose knees are no longer quite the full shilling.

Whenever I can, I drive out of town and find somewhere to walk in the country, but my life has been changed since my new iPhone arrived complete with a mystery app with a heart on it. Once a friend had explained that this would monitor the number of steps I walked everyday (and lots of other things besides), I realised I’d been missing a whole dimension: that of a city walker.

On their website, the NHS explain the health benefits of walking 10,000 steps a day - 10,000 steps is the equivalent of about five miles. For someone like me who spends the day in one place, that’s an ambitious stretch to cover every day. However I decided to stop taking so many buses and start walking instead. But while I got my step level up to an impressive high, other hurdles presented themselves that I hadn’t thought about.

The first time I walked to a meeting, I turned up with blistered feet and in a muck sweat. Not a great look! For some reason, the moment I stop walking, I get incredibly hot. It’s impossible to concentrate or to feel that you’re being taken seriously when you’ve got sweat pouring down your face.

When you're not looking at your surroundings through a bus window but are part of them, you start noticing things you hadn't before.

Apart from requiring a decent pair of trainers and a bag in which to carry my other shoes, I realised the wardrobe required thought. Arriving at a meeting in Lycra or a sweaty tracksuit doesn’t exactly command confidence, so I now have to plan what I wear much more carefully - I need something I can walk and meet in, unless I want to change on arrival and lug around what I’ve worn to walk in all day.

And then there’s the time constraints. How does one fit a walk into a busy schedule? I can’t believe that pottering up and down stairs or the supermarket aisles are as beneficial as a good old brisk walk that gets the heart-rate up. As far as I’m concerned, those steps don’t really count. The solution? I now leave 30 minutes earlier to get wherever I’m going.

Walking has its own community of all types, and I’ve met some obsessives who tuck their phone in their pocket or their Fitbit into their bra all day long counting the number of steps walked that day, and comparing with others. At the moment, I’m keeping the competition limited to myself. Anything more feels too anxiety-inducing.

Are the 10,000 steps a tyranny? On a bad day I’d say so, as I rush to complete them. But despite the extras to take on board, I’m discovering huge pluses that outweigh the minuses.

There are the health benefits laid out by the NHS (above). There’s the feeling of satisfaction and the endorphin rush that comes with exercise. When you’re not looking at your surroundings through a bus window but are part of them, you start noticing things you hadn’t before. Walking costs nothing (apart from the ambidextrous wardrobe!), is easy to do, and you don’t need anyone else.

For me, perhaps the biggest benefit is the thinking time walking gives me. When I’m sitting at home writing, I often get stuck. But a brisk walk clears the cobwebs away so ideas and solutions surface from somewhere in my subconscious. I don’t pretend to understand the process, but for a writer, it’s completely invaluable.

Catching the bus? No thanks, I’d prefer to walk. Only 8,973 steps to go…

Fanny’s new book With a Friend Like You is published by Orion and is available now from Amazon.

By Fanny Blake

Twitter: @FannyBlake1

jinglbellsfrocks Thu 20-Aug-15 17:43:56

I cannot see the need to walk five miles a day. A complete and utter, boring, waste of time. Two miles is enough, preferably with a little retail therapy thrown in.

Five miles a day would be hard on knocking-on-a-bit knees. And you would be too weary to do much else in the day.

Pittcity Thu 20-Aug-15 17:48:20

There was much debate about this when the Gransnet 10,000 steps a day club was started.
I have reduced mine to 6,000 as I am able to achieve this on most days with everyday walking.

shysal Thu 20-Aug-15 17:58:43

I still manage 15-16,000 steps most days, and feel much better for it. I do 6,000 first thing in the morning, which leaves me invigorated (and hungry), and normal life including exercise classes takes care of the rest.
How many of us are still following the regime?

thatbags Thu 20-Aug-15 17:59:36

One doesn't need special clothes to walk in. People used to walk a great deal in ordinary clothes. So long as your clothes are breathable (not synthetics) and preferably layered so you can adjust when necessary, you shouldn't have a problem. Perhaps you are wearing too many clothes to walk in. You are more likely to need fewer clothes while walking and need to carry a cardi or jacket to wear once you've cooled down after sitting still for a bit in a meeting.

Shoes needn't be a problem either. One doesn't have to wear uncomfortable, impossible-to-walk-five-miles in shoes to meetings. Aren't feet usually hidden under tables anyway? I don't think men wear stupid shoes to meetings so there's no reason women need to either.

I used to cycle to work (five miles each way) in my work clothes. Never had a problem but then I always wore practical clothes and shoes. In wet weather I wore waterproofs, including footwear. Kept a pair of shoes at work for such eventualities.

I do wish people would stop pretending that walking and cycling to work is a big deal. It isn't if you're sensible.

thatbags Thu 20-Aug-15 18:00:44

Walking shoes don't have to be trainers either. Has everyone forgotten about good old leather walking shoes?

Marmark1 Thu 20-Aug-15 18:01:48

I walk for a hour a day,everyday rain or not.

Luckygirl Thu 20-Aug-15 18:12:54

I walk for half an hour or more most days, but I pay for it in knee and foot pain - so you takes your choice!!

Doreen5 Fri 21-Aug-15 13:25:37

My target is 10,000 steps a day using a Fitbit Zip. My steps are synced with a Bounts App which rewards me points for the number of steps I complete. The rewards are then converted into gift vouchers for Boots, Tesco, John Lewis and lots more!

HthrEdmndsn Fri 21-Aug-15 14:02:07

My son (23) and I have the same app on the same make and model phone. However, if we walk together, his phone always registers more steps than mine! He is several inches taller than me and consequently a longer stride length, so if we are covering the same distance surely I am taking more steps?

Grannynise Fri 21-Aug-15 16:47:54

Could somebody please suggest a reliable, accurate pedometer? Either an app for android phone or a real pedometer. The one I've been using counts even when I'm sitting still which is great for morale ..... Until you realise what's happening. sad

shysal Fri 21-Aug-15 17:39:37

I use one of these. 3 axes pedometer
It works in a pocket, handbag or around the neck, and no faffing around with apps. The only drawback is that if you are interested in the distance walked, it only displays kilometers. Being a bit OCD myself, I have tried counting my steps in my head, and it is always accurate. It has even survived a couple of washing machine cycles!

greatgrandma Fri 21-Aug-15 17:47:00

I don 't have any walking aids unless a walking stick counts I know when I am too tired to walk any further.

Gangang Fri 21-Aug-15 17:48:21

I use a Fitbit Zip and am always surprised by the amount of steps I generate. I manage at least 10,000 steps daily and in addition work out in the gym 3 times a week. Then there is of course dog walking, caring for an elderly mother, the allotment and running after the grandchildren on their bicycles, (we childcare 2 days a week), and I work part time. I love it!!!

janeainsworth Fri 21-Aug-15 17:52:42

Surely the important thing about exercise is to find something you enjoy.
I dislike these tyrannical edicts from the NHS. Cycling, swimming, Zumba, ballroom dancing, gardening or working out in a gym are all beneficial forms of exercise.
I like walking both in the countryside and in a city, not for the sake of the walking, but for the enjoyment of what I'm seeing. I don't see the point of walking just for the sake of it.

MargaretX Fri 21-Aug-15 18:58:31

I'm afraid I only walk from A to B. I can't see the sense of doing so many steps per day. I live in a town house with 4 floors and do house work. good old fashioned house work. Carting baskets of washing up from the laundry room etc etc. I have my freezer im the cellar as well as an old fridge and walk up and down durng the day. I cook and clean and wash tiled floors and 2 WCs.
I did have a cleaning lady when I had a bad back but she herself became ill and so I have not replaced her. That will have to do for me I refuse to spend my remaining days walking aimlessly counting steps on a phone.
Yes 10,000 steps a day is a tyranny.

Ana Fri 21-Aug-15 19:06:24

Well, there was a very popular thread on here about it last year. A lot of GNs were extremely keen...confused

rosesarered Fri 21-Aug-15 19:16:40

It all sounds ghastly to me.

yogagran Fri 21-Aug-15 19:55:01

Doreen5 and Gangang - I have a Fitbit Zip too.. I love the challenges that you can do. Perhaps we should start a GN Fitbit thread so we can challenge each other

EastEndGranny Sat 22-Aug-15 00:28:48

Just doing SOME walking every day, if possible, however short is better than nothing and if you can throw in a couple of longer walks during the week, great. I am lucky in that I live on the edge of a small town so unless I am walking with friends some where else, I can always find a reason to walk into town ( half an hour round trip) and having a reason to go for a walk even if it is just to pick up a few groceries make it easier to do regularly and more fun. And there is always the chance of meeting a friend on the way and having a chat. We have health walks in our area. Worth checking out.

randomangel59 Sun 23-Aug-15 12:14:21

I have a Fitbit chargehr and it really does create data that I can use to inform my physical life. I like the fact that I can have a readout of the day's progress at any time. I love making it buzz when I reach 10,000 steps. I think that it would be fun to share with other gransnetters for support.... Anyone interested?

randomangel59 Sun 23-Aug-15 12:24:38

I totally agree with this article. This kind of self tracking just makes us more mindful of what we are doing. Agreed we need to wear shoes that we can walk in but, hello, this is obviously and logically what is authentic and kind for our bodies anyway!
I have taken to bamboo socks and brightly coloured trainers and if other people don't like it then... I don't know actually.....I feel less need to care about this now.
I would like to share that my love of exquisite footwear still exists but this quest for endorphins and feel good is stronger!
As for clothing, I just put trainers with whatever I'm wearing..
Walking is time consuming but so is Facebook, the Internet in general and TV watching take your choice.....

peAR Sun 23-Aug-15 13:54:30

I use a Tanita pedometer. Very easy to use

Anya Sun 23-Aug-15 14:14:14

I aim for 5000 a day and often exceed that. It's very easy if you factor in shopping.

I don't own a pair of 'good leather shops' and as I habitually live in jeans, so a pair of Skechers usually suits me fine. I have two pairs on the go, old ones for walking the dog or going to the allotment and a 'good' pair for shopping, volunteer work, etc..

Yesterday I made the mistake of wearing a pair of heeled sandals for my guiding duties at the local church and after two hours I was almost crippled and had to ring for a lift home.

auntiejantie Sun 23-Aug-15 15:57:08

I aim to do 10,000 steps a day. I wear a Fitbit flex all the time so every step counts and it all adds up. I used to be in competition with a friend and would be aiming for more - 15,000, 20,000,25,000 - but I became a bit obsessive and wasn't doing things around the house because I was out building up my step count. Now I am content with 10,000 and it's not the end of the world if I don't get it. As for shoes, comfort is very important for my poor feet so I always wear trainers or walking trainers. (The Fitbit is good but too expensive just for step counting, by the way!)