Assess your lifestyle, and get on your feet — the steps will add up as you walk around.
THE MORE I WALKED, the more I realized how often I chose not to walk. Instead, I drove my car, or sat on my couch.
Until recently, I did not think I was sedentary. I do yoga, or something active, five or six days a week. I teach yoga. Then I read “Move Your DNA,” by biomechanist Katy Bowman, and I was determined to move from a sedentary life into an active one. One big item on my agenda? Walk more.
Bowman says 10,000 steps a day should be the minimum we walk. A recent study in the International Journal of Obesity showed postal workers who walked 15,000 steps a day had no heightened risk for heart disease. Workers who sat added risk for heart disease for every hour beyond five that they sat in a day.
Time to get moving.
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I know from experience that 10,000 steps is a challenge, so I decided that also was a reasonable starting goal. In addition to more actual walks, I started walking to things I already had to do.
I looked first at my commute. I recently moved to South Seattle, and I teach in South Lake Union, so hopping on light rail was an easy first step. The walk from my car to the station, then to the studio, and circling home nets me about 6,000 steps. At first I disliked that it took more time. But then I found the train is a lovely place to work. I loved my new pattern.
I took on walking challenges. One day, I walked 3 miles to an appointment. When I ran out of time for the return, I took the bus. That day, I hit 15,000 steps. On another day, I walked 1 mile from light rail to my gym, did Olympic weightlifting for two hours and walked back to the station. I took light rail downtown, and walked to Belltown. In the rain. It proved I could walk on days I lift or do yoga, and also in any weather. Winter, I’m ready for you.
I walked during work calls. If I was 10 minutes early to an appointment, I walked. I proposed walks with friends. Sometimes, I imitated my mom and walked around my house in the evening to get my last couple thousand steps.
The best and easiest days are when I hike. I hit 15,000 to 20,000 steps, and revel in fresh air, the mountains and all those glorious steps.
I still have days I don’t reach my goal. If you have ever tried, you know the struggle. After months of focused effort, I hit my goal on average four days a week. Sometimes, I justify fewer steps by thinking I did yoga or lifted, though I know I can do better.
Other major lessons:
• Walking more equals less driving. It seems obvious, but it was a surprise. I have cut my weekly driving by 30-plus miles, which adds up to more than 1,500 miles per year. Seeing those numbers motivates me, plus I am overjoyed to skip traffic.
• Walking means less screen time. I walk instead of staring at social media during gaps in my day.
• I used to always walk at a quick clip. Sometimes, when I’m sluggish, I walk really slowly. It’s a new mindset that helps me get out the door.
My goal was to make walking a lifestyle rather than the exception. I’m making progress.