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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, May 2, 2001

Our Honolulu
Take steps to stay fit, doctor says

By Bob Krauss
Advertiser Staff Writer

I place complete confidence in my doctor, Ben Tamura, at Kaiser's Honolulu Clinic. When he suggests that I conduct a medical experiment, who am I to refuse?

Tamura said he'd read in a medical journal that walking 10,000 steps a day is the minimum to keep you fit.

"Ten thousand steps sound like a lot," he mused after my checkup. "I'd be interested to see how many steps people take in a day. Why don't you put on one of those pedometers and find out?"

By coincidence, it happens that I still had a battered old pedometer left over from hiking around islands. It was stuck back in a drawer.

The pedometer doesn't count steps. It measures miles. What you do is set it for the length of your step. So I arbitrarily set the gadget to measure distance at two feet per step.

With 5,280 feet in a mile, I can divide by two at the end of the day to figure out how many steps I took.

Understand, this was all basic research. I had no idea how many steps anybody takes in a day. Would I turn out to be a couch potato or a candidate for XFL football?

I first wore the pedometer when I cleaned out out my office a few weeks back, in preparation for moving across the hall in the News Building. That pedometer clicked along like a supermarket checkout register.

I covered 5.55 miles, measured at two feet per step, for a total of 14,652 steps.

But I fell behind the next day even though I walked downtown, about two miles at two feet per step. I ended up taking 9,950 steps in 24 hours.

On Friday my total soared again because I walked along the Ala Wai promenade for 45 minutes before work, then hiked down to the waterfront and downtown to do an errand for a total of 15,576 steps.

Over the weekend, my total plummeted like the stock market because I'm more active at the office than I am at home. I walk at least a mile or two a day just in the News Building.

From the far end of the back parking lot it's two long blocks to the front door, another 50 steps up the stairs to my office. Walking to the coffee machine takes 50 steps and 50 back. Same to the men's room and the mailbox.

In my one-bedroom apartment I averaged only 6,600 steps for the two days, even with an exercise walk on Sunday morning. But on Monday and Tuesday, what with walking to the coffee machine and downtown, I stepped off 8,580 and 10,506 paces, respectively.

My average for the seven days came to 10,729 steps per day, just enough to lift me above the couch-potato class.

The experiment taught me some lessons.

A woman cleaning house is in better shape than her husband who sits at a desk all day. You don't have to go to a gym to stay healthy, just get out of your SUV and walk. You'll live longer by walking up stairs instead of taking the elevator.

Ten thousand steps a day isn't really a lot. I can see where people in active professions would take twice that many without even noticing it.