PUMPING IRONY: The Biggest Step

A new study says you need to take 6,000 steps a day to be a healthy middle-aged woman, but what if you’d rather ride your bicycle?

Just as it does every year around this time, winter arrived last night on the wings of an Alberta clipper and dumped an inch or two of snow on our lovely city. And, just as I do every year when the snow flies, I laced up my boots and pulled on my winter jacket and hoofed it across the bridge to the office, leaving my bicycle to hibernate in the garage.

It’s about a 20-minute walk when the footing is good, just short of 2,000 steps. I counted them coming home this afternoon after I had read about a study by some researchers in Brazil, who found that middle-aged women who take 6,000 or more steps in a day are much healthier than those who move less than that. I live about a mile from work, so that means a healthy middle-aged woman, such as My Lovely Wife, would have to walk about 3 miles every day to hit that mark. And having just walked a mile home from work, it seemed to me that 3 miles in a day would be pretty tough sledding for most folks, MLW included.

Biking vs. Walking

But, according to a 2004 study by pedometer researcher Dr. Catrine Tudor-Locke, women on average take 5,210 steps a day — less than a half mile short of the 3-mile goal. That raised a couple of questions for me: 1.) How does one become a pedometer researcher? and 2.) Can you travel 3 miles in a day just wandering around the house or making trips to and from the copying machine at work?

I’m pretty certain MLW does not walk 3 miles a day on her bum knee, because that would not qualify as a prudent exercise regimen. She does, however, bicycle about 3 miles most every day (except when inclement weather, such as today’s, intrudes on her routine), and, for her, that’s a nice little workout. I know that because she always feels better after she’s finished.

It’s easy for anybody who’s on the lookout for fitness advice to stumble upon these sorts of epiphanies (“Six thousand steps? I can do that!”) and attach undue importance to their ability or inability to respond successfully. But what works for some folks won’t work for others, so go ahead and buy yourself that pedometer and see how much ground you cover tomorrow. Or climb on your bicycle (watch out for snowdrifts) and pedal over to your favorite coffee shop. Or just get over to the gym like you’ve always done. The point is to move your body in whatever way is most fun and convenient. That will always be the most important step you can take.

, an Experience Life deputy editor, explores the joys and challenges of aging well.

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