“We told you to follow in our footsteps, not count your own!”, this is probably what our forefathers (and foremothers) would have said had you told them that in the 21st century you would be counting your steps every single day to achieve a step count and keep your weight under control.
With the emergence of the coronavirus and our modern lifestyles, we have become so busy that many of us don’t even have the time to use our legs for its basic function – walking. It is the simplest form of exercise you can do and many observational studies show strong positive associations between the total step count and multiple health variables.
In fact, a study in 2020 showed that even at low levels of activity, increasing your step count by 1000 steps per day reduces your risk of all-cause mortality and cardiovascular disease. This effect seemed to persist even if the total step count was below the commonly ascribed figure of 10,000 steps per day.
Despite its simplicity and utility, why do so many of us still struggle to complete enough steps?
Here’s my theory on why we struggle to walk enough – In the past, walking wasn’t a task, it was a part of life. You didn’t have to reserve time for it because it was essential to get work done. Want to buy groceries? Walk. Want to find a plumber to fix your sink? Walk. Want to go to your friend’s house? WALK.
But now, there’s an app for all the meagre tasks of life which initially required us to walk. The modern world may have made our lives faster and simpler, but they have also turned us into victims of instant gratification where walking is simply too slow and inconvenient to get things done. Walking, from being an essential part of completing everyday tasks, is now itself a task quantified as the step count.
Additionally, it’s a boring task. You may cover a fraction of your step count by moving around within your home but beyond that, it’s just too mundane to set time apart for. Why break a sweat doing something as uneventful as walking when you can “Netflix and Chill” instead?
Making the Step Count Interesting
I have a few suggestions for you to make your walks a little more interesting and ramp up your step count –
- Listen to music
- Listen to podcasts
- Talk to friends
- Walk with a family member
- Walk Silently
Listen to Music
If you love music, then listening to it while walking might make you look forward to completing your step count. Listen to your favourite songs or explore new ones. If you are exploring new songs, make sure you look for new songs within your favourite genre of music to save your ears the trauma of hearing something terrible.
Listen to Podcasts
This is my favourite recommendation since I love learning new stuff. My favourite podcasts are those related to psychology. If I am feeling particularly adventurous, I might listen to a TED talk from the TED podcast channel. If you aren’t sure where to find podcasts, Google has a great podcast app where you can find some of the best podcasts.
Talk to Friends
How many times have you told your friends that you’ll call them on the weekend but never did it? The number is embarrassingly large in my case. One of my favourite things to do when going for a stroll is to randomly call up a friend and catch up with them.
Whenever I do this, I end up covering more than my daily step count without even realising it. This also has the added benefit of you actually having some friends remaining in the latter part of life. Who thought that walking could help you maintain friendships?
Walk with a Family Member
Haven’t been able to spend some quality time with your family member(s)? Maybe walking with them is the perfect way for you to do that. It’s definitely a much better alternative than watching a TV show with them in which there really is no interaction per se with each other.
You don’t always have to do something to make your walks more interesting. In fact, why should everything be interesting and eventful in life? Your entire day is probably already packed with meetings, phone calls, and tonnes of other things which overloads your senses. Maybe what you really need is to walk in silence to ponder upon and ruminate about things you don’t get the time to think about during the day like – “Rashi ne stove pe empty cooker kyu chadhaya?”
All of the above suggestions not only make your walks more interesting but also give you a chance to take some much needed ‘me time’ which is very necessary for good mental health. It may not be as thrilling as a Netflix drama but it surely does make it a task that’s worth your time. What do you do to cover your daily step count? Let me know in the comments!