BEAUTY OP-ED | The long and winding road... to 10,000 steps a day, part II


SO HOW hard can it be to get those 10,000 steps if people in other countries do it simply going about their day? (Ahem, well done, Australia (9,695 avg steps/day and Switzerland with 9,650/day).


I slipped a pedometer into my pocket and, for a month, have clocked every single step I've taken during which time I had the chance to be in Europe and the US. (For a bit of background on my personality (since I thought this test would be easy peasy), I am an active person. Some people choose the path of least resistance. I generally chose the one that makes me sweat.)


It was a slap in the face then when my month-long trial to reach 10,000 steps a day started with a fizzle rather than, say, long walks. Starting in Chicago, I came in at paltry amounts totalling between 2,000 and 6,000 for the first few days. I went at it with resolve the following days and started to hit 9,000... just. I'm starting to think the shock with which the researchers greeted the findings that Americans are sedentary was sarcastic.


If I tried really hard – and did a few last sad laps around my floor in the building when I came home at night -- I'd hit 10,000. But it was always followed with the severe dread of having to go for a walk down yet another road that was straight as an arrow for as far as the eye could see the following day. Those are the only kind of streets in Chicago.


Until October 12th, I hadn't consistently hit 10,000 for an entire week. Over the following weekend in New Haven, CT for a wedding my husband and I stayed on the edge of campus instead of in the middle with everyone else. And boy was I happy we did. Every day we clocked 13,000 plus steps. Brilliant. At least now I know that those extra pounds in college could have been avoided had I walked a bit more (and stayed away from the kegs).


And from there it was a cake walk, albeit a long one.


Particularly when I got to London and realized just why so many Europeans seem fitter. They get – in the cities at least – incredible amounts of invisible exercise (they also eat less. Much less, although you'll never catch a European eating something as pointless as fat-free cheese. They'll eat the full-fat variety but simply don't eat the entire block of it in one go). The kind you don't know you're doing but adds up to one serious calorie burn at the end of the day.


Running late!? Sprint up an escalator of, seemingly, hundreds of steps. In Chicago I don't even get the option to walk up steps or escalators (there is no standing on the right. people block the entire thing) except the 20 at the gym to reach the locker room. 


Next bit of invisible exercise?


I decide to walk to my appointments instead of cabbing it because I'll get there faster on foot than sitting in traffic. It all adds up, every little segment of exercise I can snatch throughout a packed day.


In London, there were days when, simply going around the public transit system and walking from meeting to meeting, I clocked up 18,000 steps. Other days it was approximately 13,000. Sometimes 15,000. But never did I dip below 10,000.


Not even close.


On the contrary, no matter what I did, I was well above it, and that's without setting foot in a gym, a place I am required to visit daily in Chicago if I want to stay healthy and keep my saddle bags in check. In London and Cambridge both, I was constantly walking, going up and down stairs. It was easy to be on the move. A few minutes of walking or moving every couple of hours tallied an impressive amount of exercise (and weight-bearing at that) completed unwittingly.


I was doing double what I have to actively and labouriously attempt to complete in a US city. When I was living in London full time I was ten pounds lighter than my lightest weight in Chicago, even with the gym sessions.


With horror, I realize that my first day back in Chicago I barely scraped the underbelly of 6,000 steps. In fact, my first three days back I collectively walked the same amount of steps I walked on my last day in London. PA-THE-TIC.


But, you know what? That's the last time. At least I hope it is. 


It might be near impossible to clock 18,000 steps (or roughly 6 miles) a day in Chicago but I'll damn well get as close to 10,000 as I can and pair it with 30 minutes to an hour in the gym on a regular basis.


When in Rome and all that, right? Although, you'll never find me scootering up to the all-you-can-eat buffet for seconds and thirds because I'm too big to walk. I have to draw the line somewhere when adopting to local customs.


How much do you walk a day? Think you could do the recommended 10,000? Any tips on getting there for those who don't?


For anyone out there looking to walk more, I highly suggest a pedometer. It's common sense that seeing the figure will make you pay more attention to it and thus act. I know it has for me.


Some articles on the fact that Americans don't use their legs: