A friend of mine told me she had started wearing a pedometer – you know; one of those things that count your steps. The recommended number of steps is 10,000 a day for adults (children need to do more) - that's just to maintain a healthy weight - you need to do more if you want to lose weight. Apparently most of us don’t do enough.
She said she was feeling pretty smug because she went for a half-hour run a day, but she has a sedentary job, answering phone calls, and was alarmed to find that although she considered herself to be reasonably fit, she wasn’t doing the required number of steps.
As a writer, I too have a sedentary job so I wondered how many steps I do a day. I have been wearing one of these devices for the past three months (apart from the odd occasion when I wear a dress – there is no way you can ‘discreetly’ clip it to your knickers) and I can scientifically tell you that my average daily step count is 10,251.
Yes, that’s not bad (and no, that's not me - sadly), but the thing is that I was training for a 10km in that time. I am now training for a triathlon series so some of the steps have been replaced by swims and bikes – these don’t count on the gadget.
I reckon I’m okay because I make myself walk into town every day (that’s 4,000 steps and approximately a kilometre each way). I get lonely working from home and have to see or speak to a real person at least once a day, so I post letters or buy bread or just have a coffee at the cafe, so that I can have human contact.
There is a lot of support for people to be active for at least half an hour a day, which is a good thing – but if you are walking as your activity, that’s about 4,000 steps. I’ve seen people drive to the gym rather than walk, do a work-out on some machines, and then drive back to their office and sit at their computer. It’s not enough.
Adverts trumpet the benefit of various contraptions that look like instruments of torture and fold conveniently under the bed. Apparently they work all your core muscle groups in three minutes. That’s nowhere near enough steps.
Of course, people with active jobs in service and trades will do plenty of paces. I've seen stats that show how many kilometres people run in football matches (Stevie G does about 10km).
Some canny children in surveys tie them to their pets' collars - I bet some of those dogs do heaps!
But so many of us work from home or from offices on computers and only get up to make a cup of tea or go to the toilet. Retail assistants spend a lot of time on their feet, but it’s standing still. Bank clerks, receptionists, and teachers are going nowhere – literally if not metaphorically.
I’m not suggesting that everyone run a marathon, but it is quite frightening to think how many more steps most of us need to do.