Not so much. The true horror of discovering the health app’s hidden data was in the realisation that I’m about as active as a sloth. Or a koala. Or any one of the other “world’s laziest animals” I have just searched on Google. In the past two years, with a few spectacular exceptions, I averaged about 3,000 steps a day. Oftentimes, far fewer. On especially busy writing days, I managed only to shuffle some 256 steps back and forth, to the garden. For fag breaks.
My step count was shameful. Most governments’ guidelines and health agencies now recommend we walk about 10,000 steps a day, a concept first popularised in the mid-Sixties, in the run-up to the Tokyo Olympics, when a Japanese company keen to capitalise on the nation’s athletic temper marketed a device called the manpo-kei (meaning 10,000 step metre). It was a reasonably arbitrary number, but the concept quickly caught on and it’s still used as a basic metric of good health.
Japan’s Ministry of Health still recommends “a daily walk of 8,000 to 10,000 steps”. While the UK National Obesity Forum, which says that the average Briton, such as me, walks about 3,000-4,000 steps a day, suggests we should aim for somewhere between 7,000 to 10,000 to qualify as being “moderately active”.
Faced with the fact of my inertia, I vowed to start anew. I put my strides on. I stepped out. Ten thousand steps, it turns out, is actually quite a challenge - about five miles a day - but at least it doesn’t require any preparation or much planning. Besides, I have always loved walking.
Unlike sports, or organised games, or other hateful activities that require a suit of unsightly Spandex, walking is one of life’s nobler pursuits; an occupation enjoyed by great minds and deep thinkers alike. Charles Dickens, regularly, would rack up an impressive 20 miles (or 40,000 steps) of an afternoon or evening (admittedly, he was often wandering towards his mistress’s home). William Wordsworth is said to have walked some 180,000 miles in his lifetime. That’s 360 million steps. Boom!