One step at a time soon ads up to 10,000
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I hear that taking 10,000 steps a day is all that a person needs to stay healthy. Is this so? How much time does that take? Do you count all the steps you take in a day, or are these 10,000 steps in addition to what you normally take? — G.D.
ANSWER: The 10,000-steps-a-day program originated in the Surgeon General’s office some years back. It’s been shown, more than once, that people who increase their total daily steps to 10,000 (counting the ones they normally take) have less body fat, lower blood sugar and lower blood pressure. There is more to staying fit than taking 10,000 leisurely steps. Strength building is also important.
Ten thousand steps are approximately five miles (3.6 to 4.9 miles; 6 to 8 kilometers). How much time does this take? The walking should be brisk. That’s defined as taking 90 to 100 steps a minute. For the entire time involved, you can do the math. However, these steps don’t all have to be taken in one session. You can amass them throughout the day. A hundred steps a minute is a quick pace. You might not be up to it. It’s OK to start more slowly and gradually work your way to the 100-steps-a-minute goal, and not all the 10,000 steps have to be such fast ones. The goal of 10,000 steps is another thing that can take you a while to reach. Don’t try to do all this on the first day. Start out by taking an extra 200 steps a day, and gradually work your way to 10,000 over a couple of months.
You can’t count these steps without driving yourself crazy. You need a pedometer, a gadget that records your steps. Pedometers range in cost from $17 to $80. They can be worn on a belt, put in a pocket or worn around the leg. They register steps by the movement of the hips or the impact of the foot against the ground.
If you want to be really healthy, you have to add some resistance exercise to your program. Resistance exercise is lifting weights.
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: My husband and I have started walking every evening. It’s our way of staying in shape. I like it. My husband actually listens to what I have to say when we walk. There is one thorn in my side. My husband insists that I don’t walk correctly, and he is constantly giving me ways to change my walking style. It’s extremely irritating. I have been walking the way I walk since I was an infant. Is there really a special way to do so? — R.C.
ANSWER: Most people develop a walk natural for them, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Some general pointers about the proper walking style are worth incorporating into your walking pattern.
Keep your head erect with eyes focused about 20 feet in front of you. Your arms should be bent at the elbow. When the right foot hits the ground, the left arm should be in front of your body, and vice versa when your left foot hits the ground. The heel of the foot should strike the ground first, and the liftoff should come from the toes.
Older people tend to shorten their walking stride in an attempt to keep both feet always on the ground. This gives them more balance and stability. They should try to take a little longer stride and use their arms for balance and stability as I described above.
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: As you can see from my address, I live in the Deep South. I coach high-school football as well as teach two history classes. I worry about heatstroke in my players because of the high temperatures here. Any suggestions on preventing this? — L.P.
ANSWER: Your concern is justified. Between 1995 and 2007, 25 high-school students and five college students died from heatstroke while practicing football. These fatalities occurred in the first week of practice. It takes a good two weeks for people to acclimatize to heat. My best advice is to consult these Web sites for definitive tips: www.nata.org (NATA is the National Athletic Trainers Association) and www.acsm.org (the American College of Sports Medicine). I’m positive your school has a computer.
Dr. Donohue regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but he will incorporate them in his column whenever possible. Readers may write him or request an order form of available health newsletters at P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Readers may also order health newsletters from www.rbmamall.com.


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