genehornTen thousand steps a day! That’s what fitness gurus recommend for maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

As a rule of thumb, these so-called experts tell us that 2,000 steps a day equal one mile and 10,000 steps are equivalent to five miles. Wow, that’s a lotta miles in a day.

I’ve walked regularly for years, although not every day. While many exercise enthusiasts prefer a gym, I like the outdoors. It’s free for the enjoyment. The freshness of air, warm or cold, sunny or cloudy, is always tempting and sometimes challenging.

I must confess, however, if it’s in the teen range or below zero, I do not hesitate to head to Southridge Mall.

Walking for a half-hour, 45 minutes, maybe an hour? Yes. But counting steps? Never.

So, having read of the 10,000-step standard for fitness in various publications, I wondered: How realistic are 10,000 steps per day?

Let’s put it to a test, I decided. Let’s count my steps for one day, from rising to bedtime.

This would require some preparation, a lot of concentration and mental math, adding each step, one by one. I would select a day of routine activity – no grocery shopping, for example. I would have to get psyched up.

Sound like a weird idea? Perhaps. But, I’ve been known to do and say weird things. Ask my grandchildren.

My step-counting day would be divided up into four segments:

  • Early morning hours at home.
  • At St. Roman Church where I attend and serve daily 8:10 a.m. Mass.
  • An afternoon walk outdoors.
  • And, stop-and-go walking, afternoon and evening, at home.

I would need a pocket-size notebook and a sharp, stubby pencil to record my step-by-step venture. Above all, I would need concentration … constantly reminding myself to count each step of a stop-and-go day of normal activity.

So, considering all of these circumstances, I selected Wednesday, Jan. 5.

I got up at 6 a.m., my usual time. From there until I left for Mass at 7:45 a.m., I recorded 426 steps. Not a bad start, but a long way to go.

Next stop, St. Roman Church. In addition to getting the altar ready for Mass, praying, singing and performing my server duties, I also discretely counted and recorded each step. (Bless me, Father!)

After Mass, I put everything back in its proper place and by the time I returned to my car to leave, I had recorded another 1,179 steps.

On the way home, a quick stop for gas at Speedway at Loomis and Howard added 141 steps … arriving back at my starting point at 9:25 a.m. with a total of 1,746 steps.

The rest of the morning at home was sit and step, step and sit. By noon, I was up to 2,165 steps. Still a long way from 10,000.

Next: walk time. The route for my afternoon stroll was one I had taken many times. From Ravinia Drive, I walked north through an open field onto 40th Street, along the western boundary of Zablocki Park. I continued north on 40th Street, along the western boundary of Zablocki Park. I continued north on 40th to Howard Avenue, then east to the park entrance, southeast through Zablocki Park, south on Loomis Road to Cold Spring Road and home.

Again, the tricky part was recording each step. So, after each 100 steps, I would stop, take out my notebook and record 100. In snowy, 25-degree weather this interruption was repeated 27 times during the 34-minute hike for a total of 2,764 steps, indicating each 100 steps was completed in about a minute-and-a-half.

For the remainder of the afternoon and evening until I went to bed, I recorded another 1,609 steps, bringing the total to 6,538.

However, since any experiment, test or survey allows for a margin of error, I arbitrarily added 3 percent of the total, 196 steps, for any possible miscalculation.

So, how did my experiment go?

During 17 hours, from “logging on” at 6 a.m. until bedtime at 11 p.m. I amassed 6,734 steps, missing the mark by 3,266 steps … of which I was not surprised.

Back to my starting point: How realistic is the experts’ standard of 10,000 steps a day? Not very!

My observations:

There are many factors to apply to a goal of 10,000 steps per day. The experts make no distinction as to age, health status, stride or pace. It is illogical, impractical to apply a general standard of 10,000 steps daily as par, which they imply.

For example, a big factor in reaching the desired 10,000 steps is a person’s height. The taller the person, the longer the stride and the greater time to amass 10,000 steps. The shorter the person, the smaller the stride and less time needed to accumulate 10,000 steps. Just under 6 feet, I consider myself about average height.

It seems, however, that these guidelines are determined by avid fitness addicts who exercise in a gym, using treadmills, elliptical machines and whatever. For the average person a realistic goal of steps per day depends on age, health status, stamina and agility.

For me to accumulate 10,000 steps any day, I would have to include dancing and sleepwalking, but then who would keep count?

And, I could have simplified my experiment with a pedometer. But then, where’s the challenge?

Oh, by the way, there was one side effect from my experiment. The next day, I was still counting steps … 6,735 … 6736 … 6,737 … 6,738 ….

P.S.: A prayer while walking: Lord, thank you for keeping me healthy so that I may be able to continue my walking exercise. And, may I remember those who would like to join us but are unable due to illness or physical disability.

Happy New Year … and Happy Walking.

(Out and About is a regular feature of Mature Lifestyles that looks at issues affecting the older adult community. Horn, a retired Catholic Herald reporter, is a member of St. Roman Church, Milwaukee.)