How Much Walking is Enough to Keep You “Active”?

If you follow the Wii Mommies at all…you have heard us talking about Personal Trainer: Walking for the Nintendo DS.  I’m not going to spend time reviewing it for you here…there are several awesome reviews you can read at Momspective, Real Life Blog, and at The Dad’s Center.  I’m here today to talk to you about the nitty-gritty… how does this work? What do we need to do to make the most of this great new tool?

Like everyone else I know who is using this new game to keep moving…my husband and I are in competition to see who walks more steps during the day.  I’m pleased to say that I am in the lead…proving once and for all (?) that I don’t JUST sit around all day watching Soaps and eating BonBons.  What I am enjoying is not only the tracking of my steps…but the ability to see what my movement looks like throughout the day.  Am I resting like I should be to keep my pregnancy in check? Am I sitting too much?  Do I push hard and then crash?  Its very easy to see patterns in my behavior…or “Life Rhythms” when I look at the graph on the DS each night.

So I can see my patterns…and track my steps.  The Personal Trainer sets a default goal of 3000 steps per day….but how much should I be walking? What is a decent amount of steps to be taking and what should I do to increase my activity?  These are all questions that I’ve been asked over the past three weeks as I talk to everyone I possibly can about Personal Trainer: Walking.

So I cracked open my computer and began to search…to see what research has been done…to see how much we really should be moving…is it the 3000 steps a day that the Personal Trainer defaults to?  Not. Even. Close.

The best article I found was on About.Com based on research published in a 2004 issue of Sports Medicine by Dr. Catrine Tudor-Locke.  I find a reliable source of information…their health and fitness articles are reviewed by their medical review board…a board of certified medical professionals.

Based on the idea that 10,000 steps a day is an active lifestyle…the article breaks down your number of steps into lifestyle patterns like this:

*Under 5000 steps per day is qualified as a “Sedentary Lifestyle”

*5,001 – 7,499 steps per day is considered a “normal” activity level exclusive of sports/exercise.  This would be considered “Low Activity Lifestyle”

*7,500 -9,999 steps per day accounts for daily activity that includes some exercise/walking or a job that includes more daily walking.  This is a “Somewhat Active Lifestyle”

*10,000 steps a day is the reference point used to qualify people as having an “Active Lifestyle”

*Anything over 12,500 steps per day is considered a “Highly Active Lifestyle”

“Whhhaaa??””  I have a lot of work to do.

So what do you do if you are a sedentary person trying to increase your walking?  You don’t want to set yourself up for failure.  A person who walks 3000 steps per day isn’t going to jump to 10,000 with no complications or much success.  What is a person to do?  This article suggests that you wear your pedometer and track your steps/activity for several days to determine your average steps per day.  Then slowly increase your steps by 2-3000 steps per day.  This is the equivalent of 20-30 minutes of walking.  That is NOT much time to step up your activity level!  When that becomes average…step it up again (pun intended).

Adding 2000 steps per day to your routine can keep you from gaining weight.  6000 steps per day promotes a lower risk of death and 10,000 steps per day promotes weight loss.  2000 steps is approximately 1 mile.  You don’t have to walk that mile all at once, however, to reap the benefits of the steps.  Broken up over the course of a day you will still benefit from being a more active individual.