One Small Step
The people I work with are walking.
They are hiking up and down the stairwells, circling the paths around our office building, and roaming nearby streets during lunch- time breaks. All due to an Association-wide walking challenge, in which teams compete to rack up as many steps as possible, as measured by pedometers (beeper-sized monitors you clip onto your clothes and wear throughout the day). The three groups with the highest average total steps at the end win prizes.
As soon as I heard about it I wanted in. Now I find myself taking the stairs instead of the elevator, parking in the most remote spots, and strategizing about how I can fit an extra walk into my day. This isn't because I know it is "good for me"—though of course it is—but because I want to accrue more steps and not disappoint my teammates, all of whom are younger and more fit than I am. I also enjoy the monitoring aspect: Along with tracking blood glucose and weight, it's another way to measure how I'm doing.
In short, I have found motivation through gadgetry, and I'm not alone: In the Journal of the American Medical Association, Stanford researchers recently described increases in physical activity among pedometer users, and decreases in both body mass index and blood pressure. In my case, the pedometer gives me objective proof that a day in which I walk 10,000 steps or more is a day when I feel better and my blood sugar numbers are lower. Those 4,000-step days, when I never get to leave my desk? I arrive home wearier and grumpier, and check my blood with far more trepidation.
Luckily, walking is versatile: You can do it almost anywhere, with no extra equipment (though you can shell out $20 for a pedometer, if you're so inclined). You can do it alone or with friends, watching TV on a treadmill or enjoying the landscape outside. These extra steps won't sculpt your abs or prep you to run a marathon, but once you find your rhythm they can add exercise into every day of your life.
That's also the idea behind Step One, a column debuting in Diabetes Forecast this month (p. 37). Carolyn Butler, who interviewed Elizabeth Perkins for our cover story, will be writing each issue about "exercise for the rest of us," as she puts it. While some health magazines are all about "going for the burn" (which is the fast track to burning out, Butler says), Step One will ease you into exercise with new ways to work out while having fun. Butler herself is trying to get fit again after a hiatus; we've asked her to keep you updated so you can see how she does.
Oh, and as for me? As we were completing this issue, our team finished in fourth place. Not bad—but next time I'm aiming for at least third.