Health & Fitness

10,000-step program can be addictive in a good way

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It's time to come clean about my addiction. People have been staring at the slight bulge under my shirt.

No, it is not a pending baby. It's my pedometer.

Smaller than a bread box but large enough to hold my cellphone, car keys and ID, it's always attached to my waistband.

About two years ago, at a meeting of WomenSage, a group for "women of a certain age," a speaker told of the health benefits of walking a minimum of 10,000 steps every day. Sounds easy, I thought. We all walk -- from bedroom to bathroom, up and down the stairs a least a dozen times a day, to the kitchen, to the car, to the store. How hard can it be to amass 10,000 steps?

It's hard.

I walk up and down the stairs in my house numerous times. That's 14 steps, plus the landing. Figure an even 20. I would have to do that 500 times a day.

Chores such as vacuuming, laundry and dusting account for only a few hundred steps.

On most days, I barely manage to reach the 10,000 mark.

My self-imposed goal of meeting my 10,000 steps has driven me to actions some family members characterize a "nuts." I have been known to turn my car around after getting halfway to the gym to retrieve my forgotten pedometer. This when gas was more than $3 a gallon. I've taken late-night walks around my community (1,636 steps) just so I have the satisfaction of watching the dials on the pedometer turn to that 10,000 mark.

My goal is made easier by my time in the gym: 2,300 steps in 16 minutes on the elliptical trainer. (Why 16 minutes? Because I bore easily.) Then, after the requisite weightlifting, another 15 minutes -- or about 2,200 steps -- on the treadmill. Counting the steps to and from the car, I can figure close to half my goal by the time I'm finished.

I can easily walk from my house to the gym. It takes no more than 10 minutes, or an additional 2,400 steps, there and back. But walking in temperatures hovering around 90-plus degrees, as we experienced in the last few weeks, is not going to happen.

My weekly walks around Balboa Island (6,845 steps) take about 50 minutes. (Walking with a friend makes it fun, and the time goes faster. We then head to Denny's for breakfast.)

I walk to Trader Joe's (2,723), then to the library (another 3,408).

On the days I work at the library, I can easily make my goal. My three-hour stint shelving books adds up to 9,765 steps. On four-hour days I can hit 12,000.

I wondered if my obsession with the pedometer was doing any good. Then, a few weeks ago, we went on a cruise. Not wanting to lose any benefits gained from my walking, I headed to the gym each morning.

I was standing and waiting for a treadmill to free up when a young, buff man next to me commented that I had really nice, muscular legs. I smiled and said thank you. And beamed and gave my pedometer a loving pat.

Myra Neben is the retired editor of the Laguna Woods Globe. She lives in Irvine.

My Turn is a forum for readers to recount an experience or air an opinion related to health or fitness. To submit an article, e-mail health@latimes.com or write to Health, 202 W. 1st St., L.A., CA 90012. Articles should be 500 words or fewer.

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