How To Get Your Steps In

By Chad Olsen



“You’re just going to have to get a little more exercise,” my doctor was saying to me as I was wondering if 3:00 p.m. is the start of happy hour here on the West Coast—it’s 5:00 p.m. in Ajijic, after all. I‘m here for my annual check-up—it’s a Kaiser HMO and they don’t know I live outside of their region. “You know walking is a good exercise for ‘people your age’,” my doctor continued.

“Okay, doc, I’ll do that,” I answer back.

I had read about the 10,000 steps-a-day fad thing, and decided that is what I will do. So I go out and buy a $10.00 pedometer and start the next day. If 10,000 steps are good, why not 12 or 13,000, I ask myself.

A week later while on the golf course, I have severe pain in my left foot and ankle. It is like Paul Bunyon is driving spikes into my foot. We are returning to Mexico in a few days so I go to the Kaiser emergency clinic. This is not to be confused with a public ER; I get taken in immediately. To make a long story short, I have fractured two bones, one in my foot and one in my ankle and get placed in a “big boot” for six weeks. It’s better than a plaster cast, but the big boot is like walking with my two-year old grandson hanging on my leg, and it certainly didn’t help my golf game.

Back in Ajijic, and after six weeks in my big boot, I start my step regimen again, but this time I’m going to be smarter! Remember the objective is steps, not distance or a cardio workout. Here is my advice as to how to get your steps in without hurting yourself.

First of all, don’t take a 10,000-step walk. It is too much, almost two hours! Make your goal 8500. Remember how your target exercise pulse rate goes down, as you get older? The same should apply to steps. At 75 years of age I figure 8500 steps is more than enough. And by the way, not only will you have walked about four miles you’ll have also burned an extra 500 calories.

Here is how you can do it.

When flossing and brushing your teeth, don’t just stand there admiring yourself in the mirror, like the Evil queen in Cinderella saying, “Mirror, mirror on the wall....” Walk! You can get 600 steps in while flossing and brushing (two and a half minutes each).

About this time, put on some lively rock and roll or reggae music (that’s what I like and it has a great beat) and just move or dance around for about 5 minutes. You will get in another 700 steps.

Now the hardest part, for gringos anyway, is to forget about being efficient! The goal is steps, not efficiency. For example, if you have two wine glasses to take from the bedroom to the kitchen (what are they doing in the bedroom anyway?) make two trips! It will give you twice the number of steps! Do this for 10 minutes picking up around the house (remember, one thing at a time) and you will get in another 1200 steps—and your house won’t look like a tornado hit it.

Okay, that’s 2500 steps before you even leave the house. Now for the balance of your 8500-step goal you need to recall, once again, that the goal is steps, not distance or time. Here are some ways to get the balance of your steps in:

Who says you have to take long or even regular steps? I thought I took 36-inch steps, but find that it is really closer 30 inches. I corrected my pedometer and legitimately increased my step count by about 15%!

I used to chuckle at guys shuffling along like a toddler chasing an ice cream truck. Now I know what they are doing, they’re getting their steps in by taking more steps than I used to take for the same distance. A ten-minute walk becomes at least 1200 steps, rather than 1000.

The next time you head to Walmart, don’t try to snag the parking space closest to the door, park up by the auto parts store and get an extra 300 steps each way. And while you are in there shopping forget your normal aisle-by-aisle efficiency—just wander around or take a lap or two before you start filling up your cart.

Also, you can get more steps in the shortest amount of time if you simply walk faster. Quicker and shorter steps will mean you can reach your goal in just another 40 minutes, rather than the one hour and forty minutes it takes the average person to walk 10,000 steps.

All right now, tomorrow get in 2500 steps before you leave the house. Then add another 5000 with a 40-minute walk taking quicker steps. When you have about 7500 steps, call it good. I know what you’re thinking, “He’s 1000 steps short of the 8500 goal!” Not to worry, you’ll get the balance of your steps just walking around the rest of the day and making cocktails. After all, it has to be 5:00 p.m. somewhere!


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