Move one foot and then the other. Simple, isn't it? Walking is one of the most underrated exercises that no one really pays attention to. Every fitness expert will espouse the benefits of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), Lifting Weights, Aerobics, Cycling, Jogging etc. But no one really talks enough about walking.
These experts can teach you the techniques for achieving an athletic body. But most of us don’t want or need that. We just want to lose weight, keep fit and not have our joints ache at the end of the day. Besides, walking is not just beneficial for the body, but for the mind as well. Oftentimes, when I am stressed, run down or creatively stalled, I go out for a walk. Just the act itself clears the cobwebs, improves the mood and helps generate new ideas.
There is no right or wrong way to walk. I walk rather briskly, but at the end of the day I trot along at a rather sedate pace. You do not need to don athletic shoes or clothing to walk. You can be 12 or 80 years old and enjoy the benefits of walking, which includes improving blood circulation, burning calories, improving sleep and strengthening your bones among others.
So great, you say, I feel like taking a long walk. But how do you maximise the benefits of walking, especially the physiological benefits? Well, it's safe to say that all of us want to lose some weight, or at the very least to maintain our current weight. And that is where the central point of this article comes in; why you should count the number of steps you take everyday.
Now, don’t get alarmed. Counting or tracking your steps is hardly a tedious task. It is rather easy and has many advantages:
Firstly, it helps you accurately know how much of your targeted steps you are achieving. We often overestimate the amount of walking we do, as the only way to measure it is in terms of time. For e.g. I will go for a half hour walk. This often results in poor estimates and besides, we cannot remember how much we have walked at the end of each week.
Which brings us to the second point. Putting a target makes it more likely for us to push ourselves to achieve it. For e.g. I have a target of walking 10,000 steps a day. And around 8 pm I realize that I have covered only 8,300 steps for the day. That realisation would spur me on to make some time after dinner for a round of walking, so I can hit my target for the day.
And lastly, you can keep a track of the steps taken every week and when you do achieve your goals you are rewarded with a sense of accomplishment. Also, hitting your target regularly would keep you on track for your weight loss.
How do we measure our steps and how much should we aim for every day? Well, it is generally recommended that one walks 10,000 steps each day for general maintenance of health.
Depending on your height and stride length, you would cover different distances for the 10,000 steps walked. Of course, walking doesn't just involve walking done as exercise. Walking around the house every day makes me cover around 3,000 steps. Walking down to the grocery store and back is another 1,000 steps. And each of these activities adds up to your achieving the target for the day.
So, how do we track our steps then? Well, there are two methods:
Using a Fitness Tracker/Smart Watch:
A fitness tracker or smartwatch is a good way of getting an accurate count of the total number of steps you take in a day. You can get a good one for as little as Rs. 1,500/-. Besides calculating the steps taken, some of them have additional features like sleep tracking, heart rate monitoring, blood oxygen level monitoring etc. Besides, they can also be used as a watch to tell the time.
The most popular models on a budget include:
Mi Band 4
Honor Band 5
So, how does one go about using this device. Well, it needs to be charged like a mobile phone and worn around your wrist like any normal watch. You can just use it to track your steps every day, which it will do by default as soon as you put it on. For utilising any other function such as keeping a record of daily steps, calories burnt, sleep tracking etc. you would need to install a fitness app. This would depend on the device you buy.
Using a fitness app in your phone
While it is nice to use a fitness tracker/smart watch to get an accurate estimation of one's steps, I find it adequate to just use your own phone for the purpose. All it requires is installing a fitness app which runs in the background. This works especially well since we carry our phones with us most of the time. It also does not require wearing a device on your wrist, or having an additional device to charge.
The disadvantage of course is that we sometimes do not want to carry our phones with us, or we leave our phones for charging at times. In such cases your steps cannot be counted. Also, the phone cannot perform functions like sleep tracking, heart rate monitoring etc. And the accuracy will be a few percent point off the tracker.
For me however, the phone is accurate enough. I have worn a tracker and used a phone separately, and the differences in steps was always less than 3 per cent.
So, what fitness app should you use to track your steps. Well, there are innumerable good options like Google Fit, Runtastic etc. I personally use Samsung Health, not for any other reason other than that I like its interface and it consumes less battery while running in the background
With the app, I track my steps and get a weekly summary at the end of the week telling me how many steps I have walked, distance covered and how many minutes I have been active every day.
When you use a fitness tracker or smart watch, the data is synced with the fitness app in your phone.
Whatever may be the method you use to count your steps, or even if you do not wish to count them, I would wholeheartedly recommend that you take up walking as a daily activity. Start small and make it a habit. Make time whenever it is comfortable for you. If you cannot go outside or find a park, climb the stairs in your apartment or walk in the corridors. If it is raining, make a path and walk between the rooms. If you have an independent house with a yard, walk over there. Just get moving, and enjoy walking your way into fitness and good health.