I'm declaring my intention to take 1,000,000 steps over the next 100 days. That's an average of 10,000 steps per day, which is just under five miles of walking or more than eight miles of running (your running stride is longer than you walking stride). This is a daunting challenge. To achieve it I'll have to cover well over 500 miles on foot, more than 35 miles per week. Why do this? Well before I explain that, let's consider personal fitness.
Fitness is Work It seems every other television commercial and website advertisement has something to do with fitness. Whether that be dieting, weight loss techniques, or some novel exercise regime. Perhaps in an America obsessed with weight, this is natural. Obesity is an epidemic problem in the United States, with over 74% of adults being classified as overweight - easily the highest percentage of any Western nation. The increase in obesity, in America and other developed nations, is a result of numerous behaviors, from less active lifestyles to increased caloric intake. Regardless of the cause, obesity is a major public health concern. It is my adamant belief that this doesn't need to be so.
There’s an awful lot of public discourse about how to treat obesity. You can read stories about city councils banning trans-fats from restaurants to school boards dictating allowed foods for school lunches. These approaches won’t make one bit of difference. No, reducing obesity and improving physical fitness, like all major personal changes, comes from within each individual.
With diligence I think most people can adopt a lifestyle that leads to a manageable healthy weight and a strong, fit body. I'm not a dietitian or personal trainer, but I have set physical fitness as a personal priority and I've gained a few insights over the years.
A quick aside about my physical condition. In many ways I'm lucky. I have a natural tendency toward slimness. I've also maintained an active lifestyle. Nevertheless, four-and-a-half years ago, when I was in my mid-20s, I set myself to getting into better shape. For the first time in my life I began lifting weights, I started running multiple times a week, and I noted everything I ate, carefully managing my calorie intake (though not starving myself). Over the course of three months I lost 20 pounds and noticed a marked difference in my muscle tone and exercise stamina. Since then I've maintained, or even improved my level of fitness, keeping my weight steady at around 160 pounds (I stand a shade under 6 feet tall). I'm proud of my physical condition and know that it bodes well for my long-term health.
I also know that getting into shape and then maintaining that condition takes hard work. You need to sweat, cardio routines (mostly running for me) is rewarding but let’s face it, very uncomfortable. Lifting weights is strenuous. Being careful (but hopefully not obsessive) about what you eat is a challenge. Not to mention that fitness takes time. It’s far easier to choose an activity other than working out and easy to find excuses to justify that choice. That is why I set myself to take one million steps.
Hiking interesting trails is an enjoyable way to workout
One million steps is a great new challenge. I’m not positive I can reach the goal, but I’m excited about trying. Those two elements are critical. I’ve set a goal, something that will keep me moving and focused. It’s also something different, which means I won’t be bored or become complacent, the two great demons that can undermine anyone’s motivation to keep to a fitness regimen. To maintain variety I’m going to mix in hikes, trail running, road running, track running, and bicycling (pedal strokes are equivalent to steps as far as I’m concerned). I’m also going to keep up with my weight training. Hopefully by early August I will have successfully reached my goal, getting fitter and maybe even improving how I feel along the way.
And this is the point I want to get across to anyone who wants to improve their fitness, regardless of his or her current physical condition. You can lose weight, get stronger, become fitter than you’ve ever been. You don’t have to take 1,000,000 steps, but set a goal. Burn some calories and sweat a little. I can attest to the efficacy of running, hiking, bicycling, long walks. Here’s a good website to estimate calories burned for various activities. Couple that with watching how many calories you consume (here’s a good website for that), and you will see results.
Fitness is a national health issue, but every individual has the power to change how they look and feel, and improve their health. All you have to do is decide to start. So what goal do you want to reach? What challenge will you take up?
I'll write again after the 100 days have expired (I'm actually starting on May 1) to let everyone know how I fared and what the experience was like. In the meantime, let me know what fitness challenges you may be considering.