Gill South: Exercise that counts

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Gill South steps up to the challenge and dons a pedometer to inspire action.

A pedometer will give you an incentive to get out in the sun for a stroll or brisk walk. Photo / Thinkstock
A pedometer will give you an incentive to get out in the sun for a stroll or brisk walk. Photo / Thinkstock

Well, I've decided to become one of those pedometer-wearing people for a few days and see if it changes my behaviour and gives me the much-needed boot up my derriere to move around more.

But having trotted down to the mall to get one, I find this old pedometer lark is not as easy as you think. After measuring my steps with a good friend, a former maths teacher, we then fail to make the jolly thing go. I pop back into the Life Pharmacy where I bought it and, thank goodness the lovely, patient Claire doggedly reads the instructions and gets it going after a good 10 minutes. Advice to manufacturers, make it easier. Most of us are idiots.

To those toying with getting one - and there seems to be loads of people who already have - I find it does make you move around more. Particularly if you are a competitive type like me. I begin looking for any excuse to lengthen a journey, even if it is a visit to the loo. I park further away from destinations so I can add to my total.

I get in touch with AUT Professor Grant Schofield, an expert in sedentary behaviour, who got me on to the pedometer thing in the first place and ask what target I should be heading for.

He says he usually does 18,000 steps in a day but he's the sort who does things like push-ups of his own volition, for heaven's sake. It's the desk-bound types who struggle to get up to 10,000 a day, he says, so aim for that.

To be fair, I am tied to my computer more than I would like, but with my constant need to eat and drink, sweep the floor, etc, I am out of my chair quite a lot.

Well, it turns out a couple of days later, the pedometer still hasn't been set up quite right and has been over-generous. Stink! I was crowing about my activity. But as my husband, the reluctant in-house techie, says: "You have not done 20,000 steps today, I just don't believe it."

He makes some adjustments and, on a relatively moochy Sunday where I squeeze in a quick neighbourhood walk and a trip to the hardware store, I manage to get up to 11,599. On the previous Friday, a day when I really was dashing around quite a lot, with a morning walk and spending an hour and a bit at St Lukes hunting for a birthday present, I'd got up to around 14,000 steps. I have always thought shopping was excellent exercise. So get your shopping shoes on girls, it's good for you.

I've now handed the jolly thing over to the kids. Grant reckons kids generally do around 5000 steps a day. I guess they have shorter legs.

I do feel satisfied that I am relatively active. Though I have what could be called a sedentary job, writing at a computer, I tend to work quite intensively in the morning, my peak thinking time, and then make mad dashes out into the world in the afternoon, often at a run because I'm trying to pack a lot in.

But I will keep up doing those little things like not trying to get a park right outside the supermarket. Honest.

Next week:

I am being picked up by the promoter of Women's Outdoor Pursuits to be taken for a hike at Huia. Wondering if we can squeeze in a visit to the Huia cafe ...

- NZ Herald

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