Have you counted how many steps you walk a day?
It takes approximately 2,000 steps to walk 1.6km, and 10,000 steps to reach 8km. A sedentary person walks about 1,000 to 3,000 steps a day.
On average, a Malaysian walks 3,963 steps daily, way below the global average of 5,000 steps.
This hardly brings about any health benefit. Walking 2,000 steps burns about 100 calories.
Kick it up to 10,000, and you can burn 500 calories.
For comparison, a meal of roti canai and teh tarik – the quintessential Malaysian breakfast – is approximately 480 calories.
How many steps you walk a day can be used to loosely define your activity level:
• Less than 5,000 – Sedentary
• 5,000-7,499 – Low activity
• 7,500-9,999 – Somewhat active
• More than 10,000 – Active
• More than 12,500 – Highly active
Studies have shown that taking 10,000 steps a day is a way to a healthy heart and to reduce body fat.
It can also help lower and prevent high blood pressure, prevent heart disease and reduce the risk (as well as control if you already suffer from it) of type 2 diabetes.
The US Department of Health and Human Services recommends 150 minutes of moderate activity each week (30 minutes a day).
In addition, two or more days of muscle-strengthening activity is an ideal way to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
From couch potato to healthy hero
If you are a couch potato, don’t feel that you have to reach your 10,000 steps immediately.
Increase your average daily steps each week by 500 per day. If you walk an average of 3,000 steps a day, your goal for week one is 3,500 per day.
This is to be increased to 4,000 steps a day for the following week, and thereafter, 500 steps a day, and you should be averaging 10,000 steps by the end of the 14th week.
Create opportunities to increase walking in your daily activities.
You can park your car as far as possible from your office or when you go to the supermarket. Use the staircase instead of the lift for low rise buildings, and go for walks with your spouse, child, friend or pet.
Every day, we spend almost one third of our time at our workplace. It is important to maintain physical activity and avoid sedentary habits at the workplace by trying to move 5-10 minutes every hour.
Reminders could be placed in your daily work area to take short walk breaks or at least take a walk during lunch time.
Photocopying our documents or walking to your colleague’s room to enquire about some matters instead of emailing for a response helps to prevent a sedentary habit at the office.
We may try to take a walk instead of sitting down when we are early for an appointment.
The onus is on us to manage our time wisely to attain work productivity, as well as to lead a healthy lifestyle during our daily hectic workday.
These days, there are many smart pedometers or fitness trackers. These can help you count the number of steps taken.
Some are more sophisticated and can tell you how many calories you’ve burnt and how far you’ve walked.
The pedometer has to be worn in the morning and taken off just before sleep at night.
Walking is a very safe activity, virtually risk-free. If you are walking for the purpose of exercise, all you need is a comfortable pair of walking shoes that fits well.
As most people walk every day, you don’t need to worry too much about warming up before you start, but it may be a good idea to walk at a normal pace for five to 10 minutes before stepping up to brisk walking.
Then slow down to normal pace five or 10 minutes before you finish, depending on how long you have been walking for.
Remember that your 30 minutes of walking should be a brisk one, so a slow warm-up and a cool-down before you finish should add to the total walking time.
If you are overweight or have any other health concerns, do speak to your family doctor before embarking on any form of strenuous exercise.