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Stepping it Up

Oct. 31, 2013, Vol. 11, Issue 22

Happy Halloween! Okay, I’ve said it, and that’s all I have to say on the subject — Halloween is simply not my favorite holiday. I don’t mind the goofy dress-up part — that’s fun. Ghouls, gore and goblins, however, are just not my style. Call me a Scrooge if you like, but I’m not a party-pooper.PrincessPumpkin

I prefer the life-affirming vibes of the women’s health and the breast cancer survivor events that have been occurring this month. Most of them have had a party vibe, and some even included costumes, or at least lots of colorful pink boas, tiaras, and creatively decorated bras

Speaking of breast cancer, we’ve all heard of — and walked or run in — the Komen Race for the Cure events.  Turns out they’re really on to something by encouraging women to get out and walk. And when it comes to walking, numbers don’t lie. I’ve been experiencing the magic that happens when I do 10,000 steps a day.

 

Stepping It Up

The headline in the Washington Post (online) caught my eye — Study Shows You May Be Able to Lower Your Breast Cancer Risk by Walking an Hour a Day. The headline was a bit off, in my opinion, because it said,  “Your” risk, when it was actually referring to post-menopausal women only.

Still, this is news worth noting.

The article stated that numerous studies have found that vigorous exercise can help stave off breast cancer. And that, in turn, raised the question: might more moderate physical exercise, such as walking, have a similar effect?

The data in this study was collected on 73,615 post-menopausal women (average age, 63) via women’s responses on periodic questionnaires over 14 years. The data did not include physical activity that may have been linked to their jobs.

Over that time 4,760 of the women received diagnosis of breast cancer. The 47% who reported that walking was their only exercise and who walked for at least an hour a day, even if they did no other exercise, were 14 percent less likely to have developed breast cancer than were the less-active women. And more exercise was even better; the women who exercised the most strenuously lowered their risk a full 25 percent.

The findings are significant in that post-menopausal women are the most likely to develop breast cancer.

And now, for those who like the easy, inexpensive benefits of walking, there’s an easy way to track steps taken and be inspired to step it up.

 The Magic of 10,000 Steps

That story caught my attention because I’ve recently increased my walking to get to over 10,000 steps a day. 10,000 steps daily is approximately 5 MyWalkingShoesmiles.  Unless you have a very active lifestyle or profession, you probably don’t reach 10,000 steps on a given day without putting some effort into your activity.

Where did 10,000 steps a day as a health marker goal originate? The Japanese first started using that number as part of a marketing campaign to help sell pedometers.  Since that initial campaign, however, medical authorities around the world have picked it up, and in fact have agreed that 10,000 is a healthy number to aim for.

During a month-long Detox course I recently completed, I was inspired to record my daily activities. Actually, it’s the Fitbit One I got to record my activity level that inspired me.  I thought I was an active person — I do yoga 3X a week, Cardio Strength Class 2X a week, Nia 2X a week, and walk my eager beagle almost daily. Not to mention that I walk from my home to all but one of those classes. Oh, plus weekend hikes with my husband. But this small electronic device showed me how far short I was of the 10,000-step equivalent that would really make a difference.

If you are like the average person, you take only 3 – 5,000 steps a day.

The Fitbit One is a wireless tracker of activity and sleep. Beyond its tracking of steps, distance, calories burned, FitbitVrtcland stairs climbed, it also allows me to record other markers — glucose, blood pressure, weight, pulse, and food. I can even use it to journal.  It syncs with both my computer and my smartphone.  So on my smartphone I get either congratulations — for reaching my daily goal — or a little message of encouragement telling me I only need so many more steps to reach my daily goal.  If it’s the latter, out the door I go . . .

My Fitbit One let me know that I was getting 10,000 steps some days, but not all days. So on the spur of the moment I challenged another gal in the group to do 10,000 steps a day for a week.  Well, now I can’t seem to stop. I’m on day 21, and each evening if I haven’t reached my goal, I head out the door.

During the day, it takes extra effort.

At the supermarket I find myself parking at the far end of the parking lot. Instead of being irritated that a store is big, I’m trotting end to end.  I’m going out of my way to take the doggie poop bag to the farthest trashcan. I’ve walked in the pouring rain (when I normally would have stayed home, and I think Bella, the {soaking wet} beagle, wished we had).

Then there was the time I arrived home to find that my husband was out walking the dog — I put on my shoes and headed out by myself!  Now I’m not telling you any of this to brag.  I’m just amazed by my own enthusiastic response to this little device — the size of a fat clothespin — on my waistband. It’s truly acting as a motivator to me — it’s even brought out the competitor in me. You see, I have friends (I’ve never met!) on the Fitbit website, and it tracks our progress – and reflects our friendly rivalry.

Oh, and badges, we earn badges. Now that brings out the Girl Scout in me. Just the other day, for instance,fitbitHelicopterBadge I achieved my Helicopter badge. I got it for reaching the goal of climbing 500 flights of stairs (those were actually hills for me, but let’s not be picky). They said that’s like reaching the altitude of a helicopter!  Whew! Glad I didn’t know that while I was doing it.

Full disclosure:  I don’t have any stake in Fitbit. I got mine at my Verizon store. You can buy one online at amazon.com or at other retailers of cool electronic gadgets.

But I do believe in magic — the magic of 10,000 steps.  Some of my extra pounds are dropping away, my stamina and energy are increasing, and Bella is loving the extra walk time. Those of you who know that I had both my knees replaced in 2008, know that this is especially wonderful for me — maybe that’s what’s getting me out the door after dinner — or is it the competitor in me?  Doesn’t matter, it’s working.

Okay, gotta run, I mean walk . . . I’m almost to 15,000 steps today (Tues evening after writing this), and I want to see those zeroes turn.  Until next time, take care of yourself for your well being and those you love.

Yours truly,

Barbara
For Your Well Being is published bi-weekly. We bring you insider speaker reports, exclusive stories about special events around the country, meeting planner tips, and fun stuff from the worlds of health and well being. Be well and be in the know!

The Speak Well Being Group is a specialized speakers bureau, focusing on speakers for hospital-sponsored community events, healthcare organizations, nurses, conferences and women’s groups. Our speakers are hand-selected. They are not only experts in their fields, they connect with their audiences while bringing them life-changing information, smiles of recognition and ultimately a sense of well being and hope.

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