Step by Step Approach

I was recently asked how it was possible to get to 20,000 steps in a day, which I manage to hit maybe once or twice a week.  On days that happens, big chunks of that come from when I go for runs (outside or on a treadmill) and/or if I have a particularly long stroll (walking Jada to choir, or hoofing it over a mile to a work meeting or to see a friend because there are no easy transit choices). 

But my baseline steps on days when none of that happens is still pretty high, usually easily 10,000 steps.  I chalk this up to our urban environment and to choices I make.  A few months ago, I recorded my movements fora week, so let’s take a look at one of those days and deconstruct how even short walks can add up to a lot of steps.  

I’ve intentionally picked a day that I didn’t run or do an unusually long walk.  And yet look at that schedule again, and notice how urban living generates lots of very short (i.e. easy) walks:

7:00a-8:30a walk Asher to YMCA for a quick swim.  The Y is about ¾ mile away from our house, and takes about 15 minutes to walk to, so right there that’s a mile and a half.

8:30a-9:00a walk to 46th Street Station, subway to 5th Street, walk to meeting at DVRPC.  The subway station is five blocks from my house, and in this case dropped me off three blocks from my meeting.  So that’s about ¾ mile right there.

11:00a-12:00p walk to 5th Street, subway to 15th Street, walk to office, work emails (0/1/0).  Three blocks back to the station and then three more blocks back to my office is another ½ mile.

5:30p-6:00p walk to Walnut/Locust, take subway to AT&T, walk to Wells Fargo Center (0/1/0).  This subway station is less than a block from my office, and once I took it to the end of the line, it’s maybe another 6-8 minutes to the arena.  So call that another ½ mile.

9:30p-10:30p SEPTA home.  Arena to station, and then station to home…that’s another 15 minutes of walking, so call that ¾ mile.

All told, I count 4 miles of walking, never really breaking a sweat and all of it pleasant because of the surroundings.  At 2,000 steps per mile, that’s 8,000 steps right there.  And this doesn’t count all of the steps you put in just getting around the house, office, and other buildings, which are probably another 2,000 steps for a whole day of moving around.  So before you account for going for a jog or working in a really long stroll, that’s already halfway to 20,000. 

What’s interesting to me is how uninteresting the above itinerary is.  In other words, it’s just par for the course if you live in a city and have a largely auto-free existence.  Contrast that with the more suburban setting of many of my friends and family, in which you rarely have to walk more than a city block’s worth of distance to get to your car or to go from your car.  I suspect that the base number of steps for the suburban version of me is, instead of 10,000, probably something on the order of 2,000 to 3,000.  If that’s true, I could go for a 5-mile jog every morning and still struggle to break 10,000 steps, let alone 20,000.  Conversely, when I hit 20,000 for the day, it’s not as much because of anything special I’m doing as it is that’s how things work in an urban environment.  

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