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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, August 24, 2003

Walking the distance

By Tanya Bricking
Advertiser Staff Writer

Mark Andreyka never really thought he needed a pedometer.

Wendy Carley takes her daughter Emily and her dog Riley with her when she goes out for her daily walk. The stay-at-home mom wants to add to her daily tally of 8,105 steps.

Eugene Tanner • The Honolulu Advertiser

He knew as soon as his belt got tight that it was time to lay off the beer.

Not that Andreyka has a problem with his weight.

As a mail carrier who walks about 10 miles a day on his route at Marine Corps Base Hawai'i, the 5-foot-9, 47-year-old Andreyka easily stays below 170 pounds.

He's one of the lucky ones to have a job that keeps him in shape. But the question begs: If the U.S. surgeon general recommends taking 10,000 steps — four to five miles — daily as a fitness milestone, do you have to have an active job just to keep up? Where does it leave an office worker? A stay-at-home mom? A politician? A bartender? A soldier?

Andreyka, along with Honolulu Mayor Jeremy Harris and a half-dozen others, recently agreed to wear pedometers — pager-sized devices that record how many steps you take — to find out. The goal: See how much exercise an average person gets in a day.

The results ranged from remarkable to frustrating.

Andreyka found that in the first day of testing he took 25,874 steps. His pedometer measured that to be equivalent to about 13 miles and 687 calories. It also gave him the record among our pedometer testers.

He walked more than twice the surgeon general's daily recommendation. But the average American man takes only about 5,700 steps a day, and it's even lower — 4,900 steps — for women, according to a Harris Interactive survey conducted in June. Teens are much more on the move at about 7,000 steps a day, but they're still not up to Andreyka's standards.

Even Debbie Bullman, 36, a personal trainer at Gold's Gym, was surprised that in one week her pedometer recorded only 52,907 steps, an average of 7,558 a day.

Like other testers, she noticed it didn't always record her steps, such as when she moved to the side. Runners said it wasn't always accurate, and they needed to reprogram their gait so it would measure their stride. But for a general sense of how active they were, the pedometer didn't lie.

"I am on my feet all day long," Bullman said, "and I really thought I was walking quite a bit more than I did."

The good thing about wearing a pedometer is that it made her interested in how many steps she took and how many calories she burned. She's thinking of recommending the $20 pedometers to her clients.

Stay-at-home-mom Wendy Carley, 34, of Kane'ohe, might keep one around just to see if she can add to a daily tally of about 8,105 steps.

"It definitely made me more conscious of it," she said. "I thought surely I walk 10,000 steps a day. I'm pretty active. It made me think I should go out and walk more."

Step it up

How it adds up

• 2,000 to 2,500 steps make a mile.

• 10,000 steps are equivalent to four or five miles.

• Nine holes of golf (without cart) requires approximately 8,000 steps.

• One city block is about 200 steps.

• The average person walks about 1,200 steps in 10 minutes.

Step lively now

On the town

• Park farther away in store parking lots.

• Return grocery carts to the store.

• Avoid elevators and escalators i try the stairs instead.

• Walk for trips less than a mile.

• Take several trips to unload groceries from the car.

At home

• Make an after-dinner walk a household tradition.

• Walk your dog, or offer to walk your neighbor's.

• Challenge the family to see who logs the most steps in a week.

• Try to take half of the necessary 2,000 steps by noon.

• Plan active weekends (longer walks or hikes).

At work

• Get off the bus earlier and walk farther to work.

• Choose the most distant entrance to a building.

• Walk to a restroom, water fountain or copying machine on another floor.

• Walk during lunch.

• Walk to a colleague's office rather than calling or sending e-mail.

Source: www.AmericaOnTheMove.org

That's exactly the kind of thing obesity researcher James Hill is pushing.

Hill, director of the University of Colorado's Center for Human Nutrition, is co-founder of America on the Move, a national initiative that kicked off last month to encourage people nationwide to walk an additional 2,000 steps a day, or cut out 100 calories.

The program, which lets anyone log on to www.AmericaOnTheMove.org and keep track of their progress, has big supporters, such as Tommy Thompson, U.S. secretary of health and human services, who says he's lost 15 pounds and added 7,000 steps to his daily walking.

Registration on the Web site is free, and pedometers start at $18.95. We found a good selection locally at Sports Authority, where they averaged about $20.

The program is not really about a magic number of reaching 10,000 steps, Hill said, because that's a number only 15 percent of Americans actually reach. His approach is more practical: Make simple changes to improve your health.

Studies have shown that simple approaches can work, and walking can cut the risk of cardiovascular disease and of developing diabetes. The New England Journal of Medicine reported in 1999 that walking for three or more hours a week reduced the threat of heart disease in women by 30 percent. Five or more hours a week decreased the risk by 40 percent.

For Hill, putting on a pedometer has become as routine as his watch. He looks at it occasionally throughout his day and mentally plans to reach 11,000 steps.

His America on the Move partner, co-founder John Peters, director of Procter & Gamble's Nutrition Science Institute in Cincinnati, has been wearing a pedometer for six years.

"We don't think that pedometers are going to transform the world," he said. "It's just a device to help people get in touch with their behavior."

It's hard to count calories, he said, but for the cost of a pizza or two, a pedometer is an easy way to measure your physical activity.

Moving right along

The pedometer works by measuring the distance you travel and the steps you take, depending on the length of your stride, which you program into the device. The pedometer reflects that some people cover greater distances in one step than others.

Anyone who has ever tried to keep up with Harris knows he has a long gait (three feet).

His day of testing a pedometer included taking his dog out, watering plants, puttering around the house with his wife, walking the new Bus Rapid Transit tour on Kuhio Avenue and Ala Moana, going to lunch, attending the funeral of Honolulu police motorcycle Officer Ryan Goto, going to a meeting and taping a cable program.

His reading at the end of the day: 13,701 steps.

Like the mayor, Army helicopter pilot Ryan Hitchings found daily activities added up.

Even on a Sunday, when Hitchings didn't have morning physical training with fellow warrant officers, he logged 17,972 steps mowing his lawn, cleaning around the house, preparing for company and picking up guests at the airport.

Christy DeCosta, a sales associate at The Home Depot who moonlights as a bartender, also found regular activities added up. One day of being out on the floor at Home Depot and serving drinks at Tropics bar in Kailua racked up 12,160 steps.

"I bet you if I quit this job I would gain 10 pounds," she said at work at Home Depot. "It blows your mind how much you can walk in one day if you're working."

For Len Ogata, 34, just waiting tables at California Pizza Kitchen accounted for more than five miles a day, not including anything else he did outside of work.

"When I looked at the numbers at the end of my shift, I was amazed," he said. "But I'm always going back and forth in there, and we stay pretty busy."

But at play, it can be a little harder to keep track of a pedometer.

Just ask Anson Domingues. The 13-year-old from Punalu'u was excited to try one out, and he was doing great for the first few days. Until he took it hiking, when somewhere along the way, he lost it.

That's OK. We're sure he got a healthy dose of steps just looking for it.

Reach Tanya Bricking at 525-8026 or tbricking@honoluluadvertiser.com.

• • •

Walking the miles in their shoes

The game's afoot, so step right up. Here's how the toes twinkled:

Mark Andreyka

Age: 47.

Occupation: mail carrier.

Steps in a day: 25,874.

Circumstances: His mail route is about 10 miles, so he walks from house to house for about 300 stops. And that's just at work.

Debbie Bullman

Age: 36.

Occupation: personal trainer.

Steps in a day: 7,127.

Circumstances: That was over 12 hours on a day when she even did half an hour of cardio on the stepmill at the gym. She averaged 7,558 steps a day.

Wendy Carley

Age: 34.

Occupation: stay-at-home mom.

Steps in a day: 8,105.

Circumstances: She takes daily walks with her baby in the stroller and a dog or two at her side, but she was surprised to find, at the end of the day, it was tough to reach 10,000 steps.

Christy DeCosta

Age: "I wouldn't mind if you said late 40s."

Occupation: Home Depot sales associate, moonlights as a bartender.

Steps in a day: 12,600.

Circumstances: That was on a busy day, when she left one job and headed straight for the other.

Anson Domingues

Age: 13.

Occupation: student.

Steps in a day: unsure.

Circumstances: He lost the pedometer while hiking with friends.

Jeremy Harris

Age: 52.

Occupation: mayor of Honolulu.

Steps in a day: 13,701.

Circumstances: His day included taking his dog out, watering plants, putzing around the house, taking a Bus Rapid Transit tour, going to lunch, attending a funeral, going to a meeting and taping a cable program.

Ryan Hitchings

Age: 25.

Occupation: Army helicopter pilot.

Steps in a day: 17,558.

Circumstances: That was on a Saturday, when he took a short run, spent the afternoon at the beach and played horseshoes with friends. Just behind the mailman, this guy racks up a lot of miles. His daily average was 14,972.

Len Ogata

Age: 34.

Occupation: California Pizza Kitchen server.

Steps in a day: 12,816.

Circumstances: Ogata wore his pedometer only at work, and he walked almost the same number of steps two days in a row just waiting tables at CPK's busy Ala Moana restaurant.