Stepping towards fitness

Dr Sue Frankland gained more than better health from taking up walking A friend bought me a pedometer for my birthday after I had wailed about being 45 and fat rather than fit. Since exercise would be a change to my way of life, I decided to keep a diary.

The British Heart Foundation (BHF) advises 10,000 steps a day to keep in good cardiovascular health. But, as a full time partner and a mother of teenagers, could I do it? To walk 10,000 steps would take about three hours, but the rationale for the BHF advice is to incorporate the activity into daily life and thereby excuse yourself from needing to attend the gym or buy specialist clothing.

I started with the little things: parking further away; using stairs; avoiding using the car for short journeys; running up and down the stairs to collect my patients. Most days I took a brisk walk after supper with members of my family, or by myself, and I soon found it became a pleasurable time for thinking and for conversation.

I sometimes found 10,000 steps difficult to achieve  and my enthusiasm levels dropped during the winter. But I averaged 7,000 steps a day, probably doubling my activity level — and I wore out a pair of boots. Over a year, my resting pulse fell from 78 to 60bpm, and I lost nearly a stone in weight without altering my diet.

But I benefited most of all from the conversations with family and friends and a general reduction in stress. I have enjoyed writing the diary as much as I enjoy the walking. It kept me focused on my achievements which, in turn, encouraged me to enthuse about my activities to numerous patients, who were universally interested and, occasionally inspired to try it themselves.

And the diary is now a treasured collection of memories.

Dr Frankland is a GP in Wiltshire

My Silva E023 pedometer: £18.99 from www.pedometers.co.uk

The Pedometer Diaries 

It was not an auspicious start — 150 steps in a day? How can that be possible? When I thought over the day, I had to concede the point. A morning reading the papers and gossiping with my sister-in-law, followed by a trip to the bookies and pub (well it was the day of the Grand National). And next door just happens to be a fine wine shop. Ten steps from car to shop, 10 steps back. A stroll to the village shop added a mere 100 steps.

At 40, I promised that I would be fit not fat. Hollow words five years later as I realised my lifestyle had not changed. ‘I have to do something,’ I wailed to my friend. So, there it was on my birthday — a sleek miniature pedometer in silver and blue. Able to record the number of steps and convert them to distance. Work out your stride length by taking 10 paces, measure the distance travelled and divide by 10. ‘Can I take giant strides so it will look as if I have walked twice as far?’ I asked, pacing the kitchen. ‘I think that would be cheating’ said Andy, my husband. But a girl has to start somewhere.

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