Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we had some gentle encouragement to get the physical activity that those of us who have diabetes need. Even people who are already in the habit of moving a lot can use a non-judgemental poke once in a while to keep on track.
We may prefer to saunter, stroll, or wander. Or perhaps our usual locomotion is to walk briskly, hike, or jog. Whatever way we like to get out, even those of us most dedicated to managing our diabetes sometimes need a bit of a prod.
I know that I do. Even though walking and hiking is an essential part of the good life for me, my experience for the past two weeks proves to me that carrying a pedometer in my pocket encourages me to take more steps.
I have been on vacation in Southwest Florida since New Year’s Day. We have some nice couches in the condo that a friend of mine and I are renting. But we have hardly used them because we came here to go birding and to take photographs of the birds and other natural beauty we can find.
Birding implies a lot walking. But I know that we are walking even more than usual just because I have a pedometer in my pocket. I know that because we like to check after every morning and evening trip to see how many steps we have accumulated.
We seem to have set a goal of 10,000 steps per day. This old standard actually has limited evidence to support it, and many people find that it’s unrealistically high. Still, it’s a nice round number.
At home when we aren’t out every day I would not expect to reach that number on a daily basis, but three or four days per week is certainly a reasonable goal. So far today, with an afternoon trip still to come, my pedometer says that I’ve walked 12,648 steps.
I’ve used pedometers for years, but the one that I have been carrying for the past two weeks is a special one. It’s the first downloadable pedometer I have ever had.
This means that simply by plugging the pedometer into a USB port of my laptop computer I can save a week’s worth of data and see the numbers for many days as well as a line graph of the steps I’ve taken.
I just connected the pedometer. It tells me that in the first 15 days of this month I took 154,951 steps or 48.64 miles, which is an average of just above 10,000 steps per day. It also tells me how much of the time I was in the aerobic zone, meaning walking briskly. It wasn’t much. But the total amount of activity burned is 3,700 calories, something I especially appreciate because I tend to eat more when I’m on vacation.
This is probably not the first downloadable pedometer for PCs. But as far as I know it’s the first one that will work on either a PC or a Mac. That’s important to me, because I use Apple computers.
The pedometer is the Omron HJ-323U. It lists for $49.99 on the Omron website. Unlike cheaper pedometers, this one uses Omron’s tri-axis technology, meaning that we can carry it wherever we find it most comfortable, whether on our a hip, in a bag, or in a pocket. It’s so small and light that I prefer to keep it in my pocket all the time. Since it has a clock, this pedometer automatically resets itself to zero every midnight.
A meta-analysis that Stanford University researchers reported a few years ago that when we use any pedometer to count our steps we increase our level of physical activity by 27 percent. At the same time we significantly decrease both our body mass index and our blood pressure.
This makes sense to me. The well-established principle of quantum mechanics called the uncertainty principle says that at the atomic level you can’t measure anything without changing it. Measuring how many steps we take also changes how much activity we get.