“My goal is to get LESS than 200 steps every day,” a friend told me recently. Another friend said he “doesn’t believe in this stuff,” referring to having a daily step goal. And, about a week ago I was at the airport taking notice of how many people were wearing a Fitbit. I was surprised by how many DID NOT.
What’s up with all this?
The benefits of moving more and sitting less are real. Research keeps proving that you’ll sleep better, feel better, and think better with more physical activity. It also helps you manage (and maybe even lose) weight.
Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says increased physical activity makes you healthier. You can reduce the risk of heart disease, some cancers, and even dementia.
And, this is the part I really don’t get. Walking at a moderate pace is an invitation for all these benefits. Walking doesn’t require any extra gear. You can do it anywhere and at anytime. So, why on earth isn’t every person capable of walking tracking their steps and pushing themselves even a little bit more every day? The benefits are immense!!
And, yet, here we are. The CDC estimates that at least half of all adults do almost NO physical activity.
Why isn’t everybody walking for fitness? For those who aren’t, I suspect they would give one of these answers:
“I never thought of it”
Sometimes the most obvious answer to a problem is hiding in plain sight. When we think about fitness we focus on the high intensity stuff like going to the gym or running or the latest trend. We don’t even consider the thing we’ve been doing since we were 1 year old.
Yet, even 30 minutes of intentional walking a day is considered a fitness activity. It actually puts you in the high end of the CDC’s weekly recommendation to get between 150 and 300 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity a week. And, that puts you on a solid journey towards fitness.
“Don’t need to…I already have a fitness program”
If someone is on a fitness journey they are probably already enjoying the benefits that come from intentional physical activity. It also means they are probably also tracking that activity.
Runners count miles. Swimmers count laps. Weight lifters count pounds and reps. CrossFitters count everything.
Why not also count your steps? It might even motivate you to find ways to move a little more outside your scheduled workout time. Walking also makes fitness an all day, everyday activity in a way that no other workout can.
“I Need Way More Than Just Walking”
When someone is at the bottom of a mountain those first few steps feel so meaningless. You have so much work ahead of you that it can be overwhelming. And, that can be paralyzing.
What typically happens when a fitness journey feels SO BIG is either you do nothing or you start “all in” with an intense amount of focus and energy. And, that’s the equivalent of trying to sprint up the mountain. How long does that last?
Walking is actually the perfect start to a fitness journey that feels overwhelming. It allows you to start slow and build a chain of daily wins. Even though progress may feel elusive, it is happening. According to research from the CDC that intentional daily movement brings immediate heath benefits.
The only way to climb that mountain is to start walking. It’s as simple as that!
“I’m Not Interested”
This makes sense if you are OK with how you feel and how you look. You figure it’s not broken so why invest the time and effort?
The problem with this thinking is it ignores the inescapable truth that after a certain age your body begins to decline. Metabolism slows down. Your body starts to break down. It happens to everyone eventually.
Why wait until you don’t feel OK or you get a bad report from your physical? Walking is the perfect activity for life long fitness. Start now while it’s still easy to do.
“I Don’t Have The Time”
Walking for fitness is perfect if this is your excuse. We are so conditioned to think of fitness as an “other” activity…something we have to carve out time for. If life feels slammed, then finding an hour a day several times a week for a workout can be impossible.
But, walking for fitness leverages something you are already doing. It’s as simple as determining how many steps you average every day and setting a goal to get a few more. As that gets easier, you can gradually increase your daily goal.
It won’t take long for you to change your mindset about fitness and to start making it a part of your lifestyle. You really do have time for fitness because you’re already doing a fitness activity right now. Add in a little intentionality and you’re on your way to something you didn’t think was possible because of your busy life.
“I Don’t Believe in Exercise”
I suspect this excuse is actually a cover for something deeper. That said, if you truly don’t believe all the research linking physical activity to the health benefits of exercise then this is an honest statement for you and there’s probably nothing I can do to change that. I’m guessing you’re not even reading this blog. Why would you?
But, if that’s not the case, I think what’s really going on is the fear of losing.
Once you put a Fitbit on your wrist you’re now “playing the game” and you hate losing. You don’t want your daily step count to be less than everybody else’s. And…you just aren’t interested enough to get “more steps” to win.
You’re not alone. Most of us hate losing. It makes us fell “less than”. It’s this same feeling that keeps people from going to the gym or trying other forms of exercise.
The beautiful thing about walking is you actually don’t need a Fitbit to make this your fitness activity. As much as I believe in the power of accountability (and that’s what a Fitbit really provides) you can just as effectively go for a timed walk every day and still reap the benefits.
After you’ve been walking for awhile and can feel your fitness level start to soar, buy a Fitbit and see just how much you’re leaving everybody else in the dust.
“I Tried It Once. Didn’t Work”
If this is your excuse, then your step goal was probably too big. So were your expectations.
We hear about 10,000 daily steps so much that it feels like no other goal is acceptable. I believe the assumption that everyone should aim for 10k a day may be the worst PR ever for fitness.
For almost all of us, 10,000 is way too high to start. It requires most of us DOUBLE our daily steps all at once. That just isn’t sustainable. And, when the desired results don’t immediately happen it’s natural to say, “it’s not working.”
Fitness is not a sprint. Fitness is a marathon. This is true no matter what physical activity you choose to reach your goals. If you tried a Fitbit (or other step tracker) in the past and you feel like it didn’t work I would suggest a do-over with a different mindset.
I recommend starting with a much smaller goal and more realistic expectations. As walking for fitness becomes a daily habit you can gradually increase that goal. The benefits also increase gradually.
The best gauge for deciding whether it’s working is a year over year comparison. In a society that places a high value on quick results that may feel way too slow. But, for a fitness journey that lasts a lifetime it’s the best way.
I’ve been intentional about fitness for ten years. When I compare where I am today to where I started there’s no question about whether or not it’s working. But, if I had made that same judgement a month or even six months after I started I might have had a different answer.
I’m so glad I didn’t.
If you struggle with motivation to stick with fitness this blog will help. Don’t be intimated by the title. That’s my goal…not yours. But, my bigger goal is to help you start a fitness journey that builds momentum and never stops. If you click FOLLOW (below on your phone and to the right and above on your computer) you’ll get an email with a link to each motivating article the moment it’s published.