Unfolding plans 137 – ten thousand steps

Even the longest journey starts with a single step.  The journey to health though starts with then thousand, apparently.

I found out the other day that the phone that I have been carrying around with me has a step counter included.  It is a Windows phone and the application is called MSN Health and Fitness.  There are probably others available and they use the motion sensor inside the phone to track how many steps you have taken.

It’s an odd thing.  When I first used it I discovered just how few steps I took during the day I was horrified.  I thought I was reasonably active but the number was pitifully low.  The application translates them into calories and that made it even worse.  I’d spent a whole day at work and managed less than three thousand steps.  Since then my amount of walking has increased to almost double that amount.  I’m walking up stairs, have stopped talking the lift and am taking every opportunity to be more pedestrian.

But why?  Why do I allow a machine to influence my daily activities? Why do I take any notice at all and how does it make me feel guilty when I don’t get to the mark?  .  I find myself in the ridiculous situation of walking round the house to make the numbers up.

The question I would really like to ask though is why ten thousand steps?  Where did that come from?

Apparently we need to go way back to 1964 in the run-up to the Japan Olympics.  As interest grew in the games, the use of pedometers became widespread as part of their health legacy.  One company developed a product called manpo-kei, or literally ten thousand step metre.  I’m not sure if there was any science behind the number yet it seems to have stuck.  It was a piece of marketing rather than a firm objective.

The United Kingdom National Obesity Forum describes a person as moderately active if they take between seven and ten thousand steps a day and so it seems to have entered our vernacular as a figure.  I am now officially a moderately active person.

We’ve all been conned.  How can we boil down how active we are based entirely upon an arbitrary figure or bodily function?  Do we count rowers or racing cyclists, who may take very few walking steps, as inactive?  What about swimmers or people with disabilities?  Am I more active when I have my trousers on and the phone in my pocket than I am when I leave the phone on the sideboard?

It is not a simple case of ten thousand is nirvana and less is the slow decline to decrepitude.  I understand that I should be active in order to remain healthy and I know now that I’ve been much less active than I should be.  I also know though that I shouldn’t be held hostage by what in the end of the day is a machine, or an arbitrary marketing slogan.

I need to stop ranting now though as I need to eat my five a day!

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