Measure your good fitness progress one step at a time

Marilynn Preston

I’m so tired of hearing people tell me they don’t have time to exercise. Whom are they kidding? Time is time. It’s not something you have, it’s something you take. If you have a functioning brain, you can take time to exercise.

Part of the problem is that people associate exercise with a 30- to 60-minute clump out of their day.

It doesn’t have to be that way. There is plenty of research to back up the very simple truth that short bursts of exercise two to 10 minutes at a time, two or three times tucked into your day can do you a world of good.

The easiest thing to tuck in? Walking. Up the stairs at work, around the block at home, down to the store and back. A more challenging activity? Stair-climbing. Top tier in terms of bang for the buck? Jumping rope. But make no mistake: Just getting involved in a regular program of walking will add to your health.

Buy a pedometer. A pedometer is a very nice low-tech, low-cost piece of sports gear that tells you how many steps you take in a day. It sells in the $20 to $40 range and would make an ideal holiday gift for the right person.

Be the right person. If you are someone who wants to step up to fitness, maybe for the first time in your life, or more likely, for the fifth time, I suggest you buy a reliable pedometer, strap it on the next morning and go about the normal business of your day.

At the end of the day, mark down how many steps you’ve taken. And please don’t ask me the average number of steps a person takes in a day. What difference does it make? You are not average. You go through life at your own pace. Whatever that number of steps is as the end of your day, be proud of it. That’s your number.

Set a goal. Now decide to make that number bigger. Let’s say you take 1,000 steps in a typical day. Decide what a reasonable increase would be. A hundred more steps? If that’s a good number for you, it works for me. Write it down, so that 1,100 steps in a day becomes your goal, and set out the next day to meet it.

Reach it. Don’t freak out. Just focus. It’s just 100 extra steps in your day. From here to that tree and back. Try not to let it be from your couch to the fridge and back.

Be kind and patient. If you don’t reach the 100 extra steps in the first day or two, that’s OK. Stick with it until you do it, and then gently nudge the bar up again.

In time, you won’t need a pedometer. Your body’s natural wisdom will take over and you will be moved toward more activity without thinking about it. Think about what that would feel like.

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