Friday, April 10, 2015

Simple Suggestion #229... Count your steps

For about the past year, I've added one small thing to my daily wardrobe -- a pedometer that hooks to my belt. It tells me, every evening, how far I've walked during the day, and encourages me to get more exercise.

You'd think that having a dog might be enough encouragement, but being a lapdog, Shadow is happy to lounge around for much of the day, and I could just as easily get exercise without him. But I know that walking is good for us both, and Health Canada recommends that Canadians make an effort to walk at least 10,000 steps a day.

For me, that usually translates into at least a half hour of concerted effort, going outside, breathing fresh air, and striding briskly. On days when my pedometer reads less than my 10,000 steps, I don't feel quite as good, somehow. Maybe I'm lacking the endorphins provided by that extra exercise? Shadow seems a bit more lethargic, too, when we miss a walk, but then, in the evenings, he has too much puppy energy and tears around the house out of boredom!

Walking is probably the best exercise there is. It doesn't require any memberships or special equipment, you don't have to drive to a facility to participate, and you can do it indoors or outdoors, depending on the season. Best of all, your steps matter -- all day long. If you go outside, you can have a little nature fix, too, listening to the birds or checking out the scenery -- and things are always changing, have you noticed? Today, the tulips in some yards are a little taller than yesterday. The house that's being rebuilt around the corner has some windows installed since I last walked that way. I like making walking into an opportunity to notice and appreciate things in my world.

But if that's not where you're at, and you like the idea of more motivational, competitive options, there are walking websites that feature challenges to encourage participation, usually connected to different pedometers, which aren't that expensive. Mine cost me nothing, thanks to a library share program I participated in -- and when I returned the pedometer kit after the three week loan period, the program, called UWalk, sent me a free pedometer to encourage my further participation.

For Christmas, I bought three more pedometers (at about $15 ea) for my daughters, and we all joined the UWalk website (https://uwalk.ca) for a "walk Alberta" challenge, our cumulative steps taking us from Coutts, in the very south of our province, all the way to Hay River, North West Territories. Wouldn't have made it in our 100 day deadline without the help of my sisters. Right now, some of us are tracking our steps for the distance to Radium Hotsprings, BC, one of our favourite summer vacation places.

Most pedometers these days have some sort of tracking website or way to log steps in order to encourage a pedometer "habit." My little "accessory" motivates me to walk further than I would otherwise -- I'll admit there have been a few evenings when I probably would have settled into couch potato mode, but when I saw that I had only 8500 steps, Shadow and I took Lee with us for another little walk, which Lee also appreciated. It's also fun, on busy days working in the garden, to be surprised when my pedometer reads over 20,000 steps. That means I walked 16 km just in my own yard! Sometimes, the number of steps spent cleaning the house surprises me, too!

There are all sorts of ways to keep tabs on our exercise levels and encourage a healthier and less sedentary lifestyle, but counting steps is one of the easiest for me. How do you motivate yourself toward fitness?

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