Saturday, June 28, 2008

Pedometer as a Personal Exercise Motivator

It's a human tendency (or is it just me?) to slow down with advancing age. Sports activities diminish, except for the viewing kind, and trips to the gym get curtailed. Also, a couch looks increasingly inviting by the day.

On the other hand, the dispensation of medical advice to exercise more also picks up in tempo, getting strident with each doctor visit when the only direction on a weighing scale is UP. Cutting down on food intake can only do that much. So I have been looking for a motivation to exercise, something like a constant reminder that would track my progress by the minutes, aside from wify's nagging, but delivered in a loving way and accepted whole-heartedly.

And my prayer was answered: CY sent me a Father's Day gift parcel that included just that: a pedometer. Actually two, the other one being for wify. Honestly, this is the first time I have even heard of the gadget/device. This particular one is a SPORTLINE walk and run collection, touted to “accurately counts walking, hiking or running steps” and be “prefect for 10,000 steps/day programs”.

So both I and wify have been wearing the pedometers at the waist since day 1, and religiously recording the number of steps achieved each day, eliciting “Wow” and “Ah!” from us whenever a new milestone was reached. In the past twelve days, wify has breached the 10,000 mark (the highest being 16,476), which has been claimed as the yardstick for an active lifestyle, on 7 of them while just short of that magical target in 2 of them.

Me? Well, as a sedentary worker confined to the office and often glued to the computer screen, it comes as no big surprise that my highest is just over 7,600 counts, which is on a Saturday. Must be a day of weekend grocery shopping, I reckon.

After 12 days of use, we kind of know what step counts to expect from our daily activities. Just by doing household chores alone, ascending/descending three levels, moving around the kitchen preparing our three meals, and circum-ambulating while reciting Buddhist sutras and mantras, would gain wify around 5,000 – 6,000 counts.

In contrast, my typical 8-hour day at the office, including the walk to and fro from the carpark and trips to the printing machines/break room/restroom/conference room/colleagues' rooms plus walking in circles within my own room, a more recent add-on in order to boost my step count, would reward me a lowly 2,000 – 2,500 counts. Obviously, some kind of supplementary physical activity is called for.

The evening walks. A typical half-an-hour around part of the west side of USF campus (before the Sun Dome) adjacent to our house would count for 2,000 steps. A further foray up to the center of USF Campus (just beyond the Library) and back, taking up to an hour or so, would double that. So that has helped push up my daily score past 5,000.

Starting two weeks ago, wify and her Arts teacher, Mrs. Fan, have been going for aerobic exercise (twice a week for 1 hour each) and dance class (once a week for 2 hours) at a nearby community center. These are locally sponsored community programs for 50+ (age wise)/seniors/AARP (formerly American Association of Retired Persons) members, free for aerobic and $6/class for dance classes. The average count she scored for an aerobic class is about 2,500 and for a dance class, about 3,500. The reason for the less than doubling of the step counts, which is disproportional to the duration of activity, is because a dance class involves frequent stoppage while the teacher is explaining the moves. So at least for three times a week, wify's target of 10,000 counts is always met, except when evening showers wash out the evening walk routine, which has become a frequent event lately.

As you can see, I still have a sizable shortfall to fill. Several options come to mind: parking further from the office; afternoon walk around the park (one of my colleague does just that, walking to Bayshore Blvd and back, while the other one goes one up: he jogs during lunch time and comes back all sweaty); or extending the route of the evening walk (our furthest was up to the USF campus lake fronting the Psychology/Music Buildings at the east side of Campus taking more than an hour, but that was before we had the pedometers). It seems I would have to add all three in order to top the threshold of 10,000 steps/day. And I look forward eagerly to that day.

Some information on pedometers from the friendly people at Wikipedia:

A pedometer (also known as a Tomish-meter, perhaps after the alleged inventor of a successful device, Thomas Jefferson ) or step counter is a device, in modern times usually portable and electronic or electromechanical, that counts each step a person takes by detecting the motion of their hips. Because the distance of each person's step varies, an informal calibration performed by the user is required if the distance in yards or miles is desired.

Used originally by sports and physical fitness enthusiasts, pedometers are now becoming popular as an everyday exercise measurer and motivator. Often worn on the belt and kept on all day, it can record how many steps the wearer has walked that day, and thus the kilometers/miles (distance = number of steps x step length). Some pedometers will also erroneously record movements other than walking, such as bending to tie one's shoes, or road bumps incurred while riding a vehicle, though the most advanced devices record fewer of these 'false steps'. Step counters can give encouragement to compete with oneself in getting fit and losing weight. A total of 10,000 steps per day, equivalent to 5 miles (8.0 km), is recommended by some to be the benchmark for an active lifestyle, although this point is debated among experts. Step counters are being integrated into an increasing number of portable consumer electronic devices such as music players and mobile phones

Oh, yes, the pedometers were made in China, a clear portent announced in the very first sentence of the book, China, Inc. (TC Fishman, Scribner, 2005), another gift in the Father's Day parcel from CY:



Kitty Girl said...

You can do it, Dad!! There are books on how the 10,000 step program--but yes, things like parking further, taking a longer route to go somewhere--these are all ways to increase your step count. I am so excited and happy that you and Mom are really using them!!! At work I think I averaged about 7,000 to 8,000 steps... Of course, it is not enough to just exercise alone, it must be coupled with a good, healthy diet. :D

Say Lee said...

I will leave the healthy diet to the able hands of Mom, with occasional indulging in Haagen Dazs.

Yesterday I hit a historic low, under 1,000. I will make sure that it stays as the record.

Kitty Girl said...

Still keeping up with the pedometers?????????