Tag Archives: Getting Started

Why Everyone Should Use a Pedometer

Lately, I’ve been thinking about some of the simplest lifestyle changes I made several years ago when I decided to take charge of my health and get into better shape. Getting into the habit of using a pedometer every day was at the top of that list.

My first pedometer was actually an app on my phone. That phone had to be in my pants pocket in order for it to count my steps back then. If I carried it or put it in my jacket pocket, my step count would rise much more slowly than was normal for me at the time.

I suspected it was a little inaccurate from the beginning, but I didn’t realize exactly how many steps it was missing until I upgraded to a new phone that included a more sensitive step counter in its operating system.

Suddenly, my final count at the end of the day jumped up by a few thousand steps even though my routine had stayed the same. Wow, was that a pleasant surprise! I ended up increasing my daily goal from 10,000 to 12,000 steps a day in order to continue challenging myself.

While my current pedometer seems to be much more accurate, I do sometimes wonder if it still misses steps. I now get about 14,000 of them in the average day, though, so I don’t worry about it as much as I would if I were using the older and more inaccurate model or consistently struggling to get more than a few thousand steps per day.

The nice thing about this piece of technology is that it doesn’t require perfection in order to give you a rough snapshot of how active you are and to encourage you to gradually increase your goals over time.

Every Little Bit Counts

When I first began paying attention to my step count, there were times when it seemed impossible to reach 10,000 steps without spending my entire day walking around. It took time to realize that this wasn’t true and that there were many ways to fit more activity into the habits I’d already formed.

The nice thing about having a pedometer is that you can see the results of even minor lifestyle changes very quickly.

For example, I now know that a walk around the block is good for adding about 500 steps to my step count. Ending a trip one subway stop sooner can add a thousand steps or more .

Even when I didn’t make my original goal every day in the beginning, I was still able to see my average step count rise for that week or month as I figured out how to squeeze a few more minutes of walking into whatever else I was doing that day. The more tricks I found, the more motivated I became to push my steps closer to the 10,000 mark and to make new goals once that one felt easy.

It’s a Great Source of Motivation

Speaking of motivation, I find it incredibly motivating to see how something as simple as taking an extra walk to run some errands could add a few hundred to a few thousand steps to my daily total without me feeling like I was doing anything that out of the ordinary at all. Small lifestyle changes like the ones I just mentioned add up over time.

Many fitness goals aren’t like this. For example, losing weight, reducing your body fat percentage, strengthening your muscles, and becoming more flexible are all goals that generally need to be pursued over the long term. You probably won’t see much improvement at all with them in the beginning.

As much as I’ve enjoyed seeing the results from my longterm goals, there is definitely something to be said for setting goals that you can reach in a month, a week, or even a single day as well.

I can’t double the weight of the dumbbells I lift in that amount of time, but I can commit to taking a walk or pacing around while I’m waiting for something to nudge my step count average up while also working on more difficult goals during other parts of the day.

Nearly Everyone Can Do It

Unlike many other forms of exercise, walking doesn’t require a gym membership, special equipment, or protective gear. The only thing you need other than a pair of comfortable walking shoes is a pedometer. I’ve seen pedometers for sale for as little as $5 to $10 each.

There are also options for people who can’t afford that expense or who want to try this idea out before buying one of their own. Many public libraries have developed programs that lend out pedometers to their patrons the same way they’d lend out a book or DVD.

The Toronto Public Library had one of these programs several years ago, and I believe they allowed people to keep the pedometers for up to two months at a time while they had it. I’d gotten ahold of my own step counter by the time I became aware of this program at my local branch, but it was a great way for people from any walk of life to get a snapshot of how active they were and decide if buying their own step counter was a good decision.

Pedometers Teach You How to Stop Needing Them

After you’ve used a pedometer for a while, you may very well develop an automatic sense of how active a day should be in order to reach your goals like I have.

For example, I now know that I need to spend about a hour a day walking around in order to make my step count goal. This time is virtually always broken up into smaller increments. Occasionally, it’s as brief as as a five minutes walk here and a ten minute walk there every hour or two until I’ve gotten my full 60 minutes of movement in for the day.

Other people have different goals, of course. I’m young and in decent shape, so my exercise routine may be too challenging for people who aren’t used to any sort of exercise at all. That same routine might be too easy for athletes in peak physical shape who are used to vigorous workouts instead.

While I continue to check my step count for the sheer joy of seeing what my numbers are looking like and as a reminder to keep encouraging myself to do a little more over time, I could stop using it and maintain my current routine without an issue.

To me, this is a sign of a worthwhile piece of equipment. Just like my muscles have outgrown lighter pairs of hand weights, my mind has learned to adapt to my new fitness routine. Any habit takes time to develop. The fact that my pedometer has done such an excellent job of teaching me how to intuitively know how much and how often I should be moving makes it something I’d wholeheartedly recommend to anyone reading this who is hoping to develop similarly strong habits.

Getting in Shape Is About Small Decisions, Not Big Ones

One of the things I found most surprising about improving my fitness was how much the small decisions I make every day can accumulate over time.

The first fitness goal I set for myself a few years ago when I decided I wanted to get back into shape was to finish a 30-minute cardio and weightlifting video I found on Youtube. I didn’t even have a pair of hand weights in the house back then, so I improvised with canned food to get myself used to those moves at first.

There were times in the beginning when I could only get about 10 or 15 minutes through it before I needed to take a break to catch my breath because I wasn’t used to moving my body in certain ways. Nevertheless, I persisted. 😉

This was also the only change I made in my daily habits for those first few weeks. My diet remained the same, and other than taking some walks I wasn’t active during the rest of my time.

Getting In Shape Is About Small Decisions

The interesting thing about small decisions is how they build on each other when you’re least expecting it. Once I started making it all the way through that video, I decided to start using an actual set of hand weights during the weightlifting portions of it. I’d previously loaned a 4-pound pair of weights to someone I knew, so once I got them back I began using them instead of lifting tonight’s dinner over my head. Ha!

Suddenly, my routine became challenging again, and I reveled in the idea that those little weights would someday feel too light for me. This was about the same time that I made the commitment to take a walk every day no matter what else I did. Sometimes those walks were a light, 5-minute stroll around the block, and sometimes they lasted an hour or longer and left me sweaty and out of breath by the end of them.

The act of taking the walk was much more important to me than how strenuous it was or how long it lasted.

Once that habit had been formed, I started to take a closer look at my diet and other lifestyle habits that needed to be tweaked in order for me to become healthier. There was never a point when I quit eating anything cold turkey or when I suddenly jumped from not really working out at all to doing something active every day of the week.

It was gradual. One good habit encouraged me to build another. Now I walk or do other cardio exercises for about an hour each day, lift weights for about a hour each week, and have averaged 15,000 steps per day over the last year.

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

I’m writing this portion of today’s post with the knowledge that some people want to quit certain habits cold turkey and leap into long, challenging workouts right away. If that’s what works best for you, great!

It’s been my experience, though, that breaking unhealthy habits and building better ones takes far more time and effort than you might imagine at first.

Most of the people I’ve known who were successful at reaching their fitness goals over the long term were folks who focused on one habit at a time and committed to eliminating (or adding) it to their daily routine before choosing their next goal.

Change is difficult. I won’t sugar-coat that for you. There were – and sometimes still are – days when I don’t want to move a muscle for reasons that are completely unrelated to needing time off to heal from an injury or illness. If I had tried to change everything I wanted to do differently in the beginning, I think I would have had a very hard time sticking to my resolutions.

By focusing on one small goal at a time, I was able to build the habits I needed to take on more challenging stuff in the future.

The Difference Between Simple and Easy

Getting into shape is simple in the sense that you will become healthier once you’ve committed to a workout or diet tweak and stuck with it over the long haul.

This doesn’t mean it’s easy, though. To give you an example of what I mean, I’ll tell you the story of what happened when I first decided to switch from drinking rice milk to almond milk. The rice milk I used to drink was sweetened. The almond milk I decided to switch to in order to cut some unnecessary sugar out of my diet was not. It was a simple decision in the sense that both of these milk alternatives are sold in nearly all of the grocery stores close to my home.

I was not a big fan of the almond milk at first because my taste buds were so used to sweet beverages. It took a while to adjust to the more subtle flavours of almond milk, and I definitely had my fair share of gripes about the process in the beginning. I didn’t realize just how much my taste buds had adjusted until my local grocery store temporarily sold out of unflavoured almond milk a few months ago and I had to buy a jug of the stuff I used to drink.

Wow, was it sweet! It tasted like a dessert to me instead of something I’d put into my morning oatmeal or add to a savoury recipe. I honestly didn’t like it at all, and was very happy when my almond milk was back in stock again.

Simple choices aren’t always easy ones to stick with, but if you keep going you’ll be surprised by how much your body can adapt to new routines, foods, workouts, and so much more.I hope this post has encouraged you to find one small change to make in your daily routine. If I can do it, then so can you!