Monday, September 17, 2012

The Pedometer Diaries

image courtesy

Last time I wrote, I told you about my recent pedometer purchase. Specifically, I bought this one from Amazon (pictured above).

As I said last week, I suspect my metabolism is not quite as speedy as it once was, my kiddos don't require nearly as much chasing after as they did when they were a little younger, and I spend a lot of time in front of the laptop, blogging and writing books.

I wondered if I was as active as I thought I was (or wasn't), or as active as I "should" be (according to health experts), during the times when I'm not running or otherwise getting formal exercise. I had just read Drop Dead Healthy, by A. J. Jacobs (a very entertaining read, by the way), and in it, the author learns a lot about the serious health implications of sedentary behavior--even if you're an avid exerciser during your non-sitting hours of the day! (Crazy, I know. But have you heard about those studies on the news and whatnot? The evidence is disturbing and compelling.)

OK. So, last Monday I clipped on my pedometer for the first time and gamely plunged into my attempt to reach the physician-recommended 10,000 steps per day.

I learned some very interesting things in the next few days--and since this pedometer thing is still fairly new to me, I am continuing to learn and assess things as I go. What follows here are just some preliminary experiences.


Day 1: I didn't get the pedometer programmed until halfway through the day, so I didn't start my step-counting until 12:45 p.m. By the time my kids got home from school at 3:30, I was seriously wondering how anyone could ever get up to 10,000 steps per day. So, after dinner I took a brief walk around my neighborhood for the express purpose of upping my steps.

In the end, I amassed almost 7,000 steps by bedtime--and that didn't count my 7.75-hours-long morning (I get up at five on school days) which happened to have included a 2.5 mile run, a trip to the supermarket (many steps!), and errands to Target, the bank, and the library (the latter two of which I walked a couple of blocks to/from). Suddenly I realized that if I can get 7,000 steps from 12:45 to 9 p.m. without even counting a morning like that, most likely I take 10,000 steps a day, easy. But is every day like that?

Day 2: I've read that the average American adult takes only 3,000-4,000 steps per day. How is this possible?! I've taken 6,800 steps by 11 a.m. This included another short walk, but no running. I'm learning that stay-at-home motherhood is NOT a sedentary job. Not even when you're a stay-at-home mom to two children who are in school.

My pedometer instruction booklet says the pedometer does not count going up or down stairs. Since I run up and down the stairs in my house approximately a million times a day, this does not seem fair.

By 2:15 p.m., I'm at 9,000 steps, and I've hit the magic 10,000 by the time my children get home from school. At the end of the day, the little screen reads 14,000-some steps. Wowee!

Day 3: I didn't wear the pedometer on this day. That was because I was spending an uncharacteristic two hours driving and two hours in a salon chair getting my hair cut and highlighted--not a remotely typical day for me--plus I wanted to wear a dress, and there's no good way to clip the pedometer on a dress (design flaw for me). Day 3 was a wash.

Day 4: Wearing a pedometer makes you do weird things, like walk laps around your house while drinking your breakfast smoothie, for instance, or pace the floor when talking on the phone, just to increase your number. It's kind of fun! I felt like I was in competition with myself and wanted to do everything I could to see how many steps I could get in.

On Day 4, I did my usual 6-mile run. Even though the pedometer says it's for walking, it counted all my steps from my run, putting me at 12,500 steps by 11 a.m. Score! I ended up with roughly 17,000 steps that day. I always knew I was active on running days, but was surprised it added up this high. Awesome! At least it helped average out the day before, when I sat for four hours straight.

This was an odd week for me; on three separate days I ended up driving out of town for parts of the day (on Days 3, 5, and 6). I didn't bother wearing the pedometer on those days. Normally, I leave my town very rarely--I'm a total homebody, seriously--so these days do not reflect my usual daily life. I'm almost never in my car that long. Also, on Day 5 I got sick (and have been for the three days since). Obviously while sick my goal was to do as LITTLE activity as possible, so as to rest up and kick the virus; so again, I didn't bother with the pedometer then. Thus, I haven't worn it since last Thursday and I've only worn it for four days total so far.


What have I learned during this preliminary experiment? Well, clearly my typical SAHM days are super-active. Not just on my running days--although those involve crazy-lots-o'-steps--but even on days I don't run. Apparently, just running a household and managing a family takes a lot of physical activity. Stay-at-home moms rarely sit down, in my experience, and my pedometer confirmed this.

But even though last week had some unusual days, it's also clear that most likely my days vary considerably. True, I don't always drive out of town every few days and spend hours in my car or getting my hair done; but things like this come up, and I do get sick at times, and there are no doubt other days I spend the majority of my time on my rear--or at least a lot more time than I did on some of those days last week.

I'm going to keep using my pedometer whenever possible because the immediate feedback is super-motivating. I mean, sometimes I paced around my living room/dining room/kitchen area while watching TV, just to get an extra few hundred steps in (which is very easy and goes very fast, by the way). I realize that sounds crazy; but listen, I dare you to buy a pedometer, wear it, and NOT want to do things like that.

I'm not being compensated in any way by the pedometer manufacturer for this post, but I am very happy with the model I purchased. My only complaint is that it's fairly bulky, and is not easy to disguise under most of my tops. (Oh, and the dress problem.) But other than that, I love it. It was very easy to program, is easy to use, re-sets itself to zero at midnight every day, and stores your steps in its memory so you can compare one day to the next if you want.

But really, any pedometer would work as incentive to walk more, sit less, and be more active. If you have any doubt about your activity level or any desire to be more active in your daily life, I definitely recommend you try one! They're fun.

Bottom line: housewives do not sit around watching daytime TV and eating bonbons. In case you didn't know that. In fact, apparently stay-at-home moms are roughly three to five times more active (when they're not traveling or sick) than the average American doing the average paid job. I have electronic proof.


Rita said...

Shannon! I've done this too! With the exact same results. I knew I barely sat down all day, but somehow having a little device counting my steps felt like proof that I wasn't some lazy housewife.

Not that anyone has ever accused me of being a lazy housewife.

Shannon said...

@Rita: Exactly.