Archives for March 2011

Pedometer Walking Program – Create A Simple Personalized Walking Program

Do you know how to get the most out of your step counter? Simply wearing a step counter is going to get  boring fast!

In order to gain all the benefits of using a pedometer, you need a pedometer walking program that is both easy and challenging at the same time.

Establish Your Baseline

Before you start your walking program, you need to define your current level of physical activity.

Your first task is  to simply measure your daily steps for 3-7 consecutive days, wearing your step counter from dawn to dusk. It’s a good idea to include both workdays and days off in your measurement period.

This is also a great way to assess your level of physical activity.

TIP: It’s important to avoid the temptation of changing your daily routine during the measurement period.  It might be a good idea to tape the screen of your pedometer ( if you use a model with a flap, just keep it closed) so you don’t see your numbers during the day.

Remove the tape and jot down your daily steps just before you go to bed.

An Example Of Calculating Your Baseline

Let’s say Susan walks for 4 consecutive days to establish her baseline. Her daily steps are 5,634, 3,477, 6,545 and 2,555. To get her baseline, Susan adds the four numbers together and divides the sum with four = (3,634+3,477+6,545+2,555) / 4 ≈ 4,553 steps. (This means Susan is in the sedentary group).

Two Progressive Pedometer Walking Programs

Now you’re ready to create your own pedometer program! Below are my instructions for two simple programs: both are based on gradually increasing your daily steps, with the difference that program #2 proceeds more briskly than program #1. If you like challenges, choose program #2.

You’re supposed to set yourself a new step goal every week until you reach your long-term goal. More about long-term goals later.

Program 1: Add 500 Steps* Program

In 500 steps program you simply add 500 to your baseline to get a step goal for your first week. Thus,  Susan’s first week step goal is 4553 + 500 = 5053 steps.

During the first week Susan strives to add 500 steps every day, but doesn’t quite make it. Her average step count for Week 1 is 4950 steps. Based on that number, her second step goal is 4950 + 500 =  5450 steps. The step goals for the following weeks are calculated in the same way, till you reach your main goal.

Program 2: The 20% Boost Program**

The 20% boost program was originally devised  by Felton and Bennett.  In this program, you calculate your first step goal by taking 20 % of the baseline and adding the result to the baseline.

Susan’s first week step goal would be 1.2 x 4,553 = 5464 steps.

Let’s say this time Susan’s average for week 1 is 5200 steps, so her step goal for week 2 is 1.2 x 5200 = 6240 steps. And so on.

Setting a Long-Term Step Goal

What should your “ultimate” step goal be? An often quoted step goal is 10,000 steps/day which roughly corresponds to walking 5 miles. In most cases that’s enough for healthy adults, but nothing prevents you from aiming higher.

10,000 steps a day is sufficient to gain all health benefits of walking.

For children and adolescents, the goal should considerably higher than 10,000 steps, i.e. 16,000 steps per day. For elderly people and people with health issues, 7,000 – 8,000 steps per day might be a more realistic goal.

Happy walking! 🙂

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Sources:

*State of Wisconsin Pedometer Walking Program (PDF)
**Fenton & Bassett: Pedometer Walking

Making Healthy Lifestyle Changes – Two Reasons You Fail And What To Do About It

I bet this is not the first time you’ve tried making healthy lifestyle changes. In that case you probably know that one of the most frustrating aspects of change is that at times it seems outright impossible!

I want to discuss two ways people set themselves up for failure while trying to achieve their healthy lifestyle goals. You’re probably familiar with the first one. The second one is not so often discussed about.

Too Much Too Fast

I read somewhere that one factor that predicts NOT being able to stick to your exercise program is taking on too much too fast. A good example is when you suddenly decide to exercise 5-6 times per week even though you barely averaged once a week before that. This usually takes place right after the Holidays.

After three or four weeks, chances are that you’re forced to give up your exercise regime because your body refuses to co-operate! And if your body doesn’t give out, other demands in your daily life prevent you from sticking to your exercise regime. This is true about weight loss too. When you set ambitious goals like losing 20 or more pounds in 8 weeks, you’ll feel discouraged if for some reason your weight doesn’t drop as fast as you planned. In the worst case, you label yourself as a loser and give up.

My latest experience with “too much too fast” took place not so long ago. I was reading interesting books about all sorts of healthy dietary changes I could be making. I experimented with several but rather than losing weight, I found myself becoming frazzled.

It didn’t take me long to realize I was stressed out because I overwhelmed myself with too many changes at the same time. I dropped most of them and immediately felt relieved. As a result my waist circumference is showing some signs of shrinking.

It appears it’s not possible to make more than one or two simple lifestyle changes at the same time.

My suggestion is to pick one or two simple and concrete things to change (that are in line with what you want to achieve) and stick to them until you have fully incorporated it into your life. It may take longer than you think. Then you can pick other goals. If you’re lucky, you set off a chain reaction where one healthy lifestyle change leads to another.

You Aren’t Ready To Change

If you’ve ever read about goal setting, you might be familiar with the six stages model of behavior change: precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, maintenance and relapse.

If you find it really difficult to make changes in your lifestyle, it might be that you’re still in the contemplation or preparation stage of change instead of the action stage. As frustrating as it sounds, changing and not changing both have their pros and cons that have to be acknowledged before you can change.

[notice]It might take a long time before you’re ready to make any real changes in your life…[/notice]

How do you know what stage you are in? Contemplation stage is characterized by mixed feelings about change, while in the preparation stage you might be able experiment with small changes. You can also find a good description of stages of change here.

I think I spent in a contemplation and preparation stages most of last year. I paid lip service to change and made several half-hearted attempts at changing my exercise and diet habits. Not until I bought myself a pedometer last fall, did I start making some real progress.

What to do about it if you’re not ready to change yet? It might help if you acknowledge that change is not such a straightforward  process. You can take unnecessary pressure off yourself if you won’t take your lack of progress as sign of personal failure. It might also help if you read about stages of behavior change and work through your issues.

Best Wishes,

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P.S. I would really like to hear what you think ! Leave your comments below.

Why You Should Start Pedometer Walking

Walking is unarguably one of the best forms of physical activity there is:  it’s simple, inexpensive and suitable for unfit and obese people.

Walking also has numerous reported health benefits: it lowers blood cholesterol and blood pressure, effectively shrinks the waistline, reduces the likelihood of diabetes and cardiovascular disease, and helps fight stress and depression.

Ok, you probably already believe that walking is good for you. But what is so special about pedometer walking?

Why Pedometer Walking Is So Effective

Everyone knows how hard it can be to change your lifestyle for the better. Researchers know that too, but they have also found out that measuring your daily steps with a pedometer is an effective way to increase physical activity. One study concluded that pedometer users walked an additional mile compared with walkers who didn’t use pedometers.

There is one reservation though: you have to set step goals and record your daily steps for this to work. Just carrying your pedometer with you isn’t enough.

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There are many reasons why pedometers are so effective.

According to researcher Catrina Tudor-Locke, one reason is that pedometers are simple to set up and use. I can’t but agree with Tudor Locke, especially when you compare pedometers with heart rate monitors. It took me 3 hours to learn how to use my first heart rate monitor, while it took me perhaps 20 minutes to make my pedometer ready to use.

Another reason is that pedometers are inexpensive. You can get accurate pedometers starting as low as $20. You don’t always have to spend hundreds of dollars to own a good fitness gadget! (It’s easy to find cheap pedometers, but I wouldn’t bother with them).

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The last and perhaps the most important reason for their effectiveness it that pedometers give you immediate and understandable feedback on your activity or inactivity. Even my 4-year old niece had no difficulty understanding how my pedometer works and my reasons for using it. She actually used it to argue I should get up form the sofa and play with her!

I want to mention one more advantage of using pedometers:  even if you don’t have time for long stretches of “formal” exercise during the day, it’s pretty easy to sneak physical activity into your day and still be able to monitor your progress.

In other words, pedometers are effective motivators.

Personally, I think of my pedometer as a personal pacesetter. Every morning I wear my pedometer around my neck and start chasing my daily step goal. 🙂

Best Wishes,

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P.S. If you consider pedometer walking, do yourself a favor – get a good pedometer!