Every Step Counts

footprints in frost

Last year, I wore one of those fitness trackers for a couple of months and became mildly obsessed with how many steps I took each day. Then the battery ran out and the tracker was put to one side and forgotten. But when I was counting the steps, I wondered about the value of some. After all, there’s a world of difference between pottering around the kitchen while baking on a Sunday afternoon and power walking up a hill.

What if some of those steps were worthless? A study from the University of Cambridge revealed that a brisk twenty minute walk every day reduces the risk of early death by 25% but is a casual saunter of any benefit? I thought about some of the steps I’ve walked in the past week in speed order:

The Supermarket Shuffle. A ponderous walk also requiring negotiations around static and slow moving obstacles.

The Sunday Saunter. A postprandial amble with time to stop and talk with friends and neighbours or watch paramotors.

morning sun on foggy day

The Mindful Walk. Looking around at the landscape, stopping to photograph the light shining through the branches on a foggy morning or feeling the crunch of ice beneath the feet.

The Thinking Walk. There seems to be an optimum speed at which my brain works best and I can mull over problems or make grand plans. Bill hates it when I return from a walk with the words “I’ve been thinking …”

The Dog Walk. Brisk walking interspersed with stops to attach or remove the lead, backward walking as I scan the horizon for my dog and bending down to nip under barriers.

The Nordic Walk. Fast walking, propelled by poles. Only undertaken in a group away from home as I feel too self-conscious to stride out with poles around the farm.

The Walking Netball Walk. Very fast walking in short spurts co-ordinated with catching and throwing a ball and avoiding collisions with other players.

While I might not be getting an intense aerobic workout from all these forms of walking, I enjoy them and they get me outside in all weathers (apart from supermarket shopping). If being outside and active makes me happy then it must be doing good so it doesn’t surprise me that Natural England have concluded that walking can result in improved self-esteem and mood states.

Phew! Those steps are all worthwhile. They just have different values.

Do you walk for pleasure? Are you a mindful walker embracing the world with every step or do you stride purposefully from A to B?

You might also like to read these articles about the joys of walking:

Daily Walks

Hygge – Celebrating the Cold, the Bleak and the Blissful

Waste Not Those Feet





35 thoughts on “Every Step Counts

  1. I’m definitely a meanderer these days, rather than a power walker from A to B. Sometimes when I watch the joggers panting and struggling for breath as they pass me on my daily walks, I like to imagine that there’s a lion chasing them. Frankly, it’s the only thing that would make me run these days. 😀 Thanks for the linky love! xxx

    1. Joggers so often look plain miserable and they don’t hear my cheery greeting because they’ve wear earphones. Such joyless exercise. Now have an image of you being chased by a lion.

  2. This is interesting and very much along the lines of what I’ve been thinking too. I nearly bought one of those bit things last week in Singapore. But my routine tends to be fairly predictable so I had the feeling that once I’d measured a week’s worth I wouldn’t need it anymore.
    The value of steps is very true for me. I probably don’t do 10,000 steps a day but a lot of them are up a 45 deg slope.. don’t those steps count double or even more?! And as you say, ambling has it’s own value, mental rather than physical maybe, but no less worthy.
    “I’ve been thinking..” Mike dreads those words too! He usually gets them first thing in the morning as the edge of sleep is my most creative time.

    1. Judging by the photos on your blog, walking anywhere from your house makes any step worth at least treble that of a step in Essex! It was surprising how the steps mounted up on days when I thought I’d done very little, though a long journey in the car also resulted in a few hundred steps so I’m not sure how accurate they are.

  3. I like walking.
    In my time, I’ve walked the length of Greece from North to South, and spent 9 weeks walking in Nepal.
    These days, I walk briskly down the hill to school, quizzing the children on their times tables, and puff back up the hill, enjoying the amazing views and thinking.
    When I get home, I walk slowly around the front garden, checking if the crocus and daffodil bulbs are coming up and taking in the changes brought by the seasons (or the weather).
    Every few days I go to work in Leeds or Manchester and walk from train station to the university, wishing I were wearing trainers instead of work shoes (sometimes I do, but then I have to carry the smarter shoes in a bag). I don’t really like the hustle and bustle of the city, finding it noisy and lacking in greenery, but every so often I do think ‘Gosh! Just look at all those things you can buy in the shops!’ 😉

    1. A proper walker. How amazing to spend 9 weeks walking in Nepal – you must have encountered some fantastic sights. It sounds as though you do all sorts of walking – it’s good isn’t it?

  4. [J] Walking always gets my vote. It’s fundamental. Honest. Self-Reliant. Improving. I could go on. Denise says I often do. On this subject she’d agree (if she was here) and we’d be considering this subject together. The most memorable out-and-about experiences we’ve had in life have all been when we’ve left the world of vehicular transport behind (physically, or metaphorically) and are making our way through the world on our own two (or is that four?) feet!

    1. It always surprises me how different a place looks when you walk there and there’s so much more to notice. Mind you, when I walk back the other way I realise how much I missed walking in the other direction. Also, when you walk with someone, you can go back to see the things one of you missed but in a car it’s whoosh and you’re past.

  5. I love walking, whether it’s with friends or on my own (I usually have the dog with me regardless). A quick, 30-minute stomp or an hour plus walking and chatting, I always feel better and do my best thinking. I hadn’t thought about all the walking I do indoors – running up and down stairs, cleaning, tidying, cooking. Great to hear it’s all good for me! Love that frosty boot print photo.

    1. As I get older, I must clock up even more steps inside with all those times I stride purposefully into a room and then can’t remember what I was going to do so have to retrace my steps.

  6. Lovely thought provoking post. I too have a walks collection, all at different speeds and with different purposes. My exercise regime wouldn’t impress the “health police” – no gym, exercises classes or running; just shovelling, digging, walking (speeds various from meander to brisk), fetching and carrying. No lycra, branded trainers, or smart gadgets required for a fit, heathy country life.

    1. Your exercise regime sounds perfect and much better than driving to the door of the gym and then spending an hour running on the treadmill to go nowhere.

  7. I love to walk. I also wore a fitness tracker for a few months and it really helped me get out for a decent walk everyday. Unfortunately the increase in exercise damaged my achilles tendons and I’m having to build up very slowly. It’s a bit of a vicious circle as my excess weight has helped cause the injury but exercise will help the weight to shift. I miss it like mad, walking is not just exercise for the body but therapy for the mind. Thought provoking post Anne, thank you.

    1. Damaging your achilles tendons is a bad news and building up slowly can be a bit of a pain – some days it’s tempting to do too much and other days it hardly seems worth the effort so it’s easier to do nothing. Glad you’ve revived your blog Sue.

  8. I love having a walk on the beach or around the farm especially at this time of year when its dry but crisp outside. I like to see the scenery, the wildlife, taking photos and have a good gossip ( if I have hubby or friends out with me) so my walk is definitely a meander. I don’t tend to do brisk walking as I have mobility / balance problems. On your Sunday saunter do you watch or swear profusely at the paramotors??

  9. This is great Anne , I enjoyed reading this post and all the comments. Last year my husband bought me one of these Fitbit but I returned it, I have my smartphone. I enjoy walking once I’m doing it but I have a difficult time getting going. In my home I live upstairs so I am constantly running up and down, that counts doesn’t it?

  10. I too have a collection of walks from slow to brisk, but almost all of them are observant ones. lately, I’ve got my stride back after having lost it hunching in the cold against the wind. I’m going to try to keep it. Your tree in the mist is fabulous and golden. Magic. That’s what I’m always seeing on walks–something common and startling and somehow renewing.

    1. I hadn’t thought about how differently we walk according to the weather. I’ve definitely been more hunched this week in the cold and in the summer walking is much freer and relaxed.

  11. This a great post! I’ve never had a fitness tracker, but my phone records my steps and I often wander if it records false steps. Yesterday we went on a little ferry and it was really rough. My phone was being bounced about in my bag and it recorded that I did over 300 steps while I was sitting in my seat!

    1. Thanks Georgie. One of my boys considered tying his tracker to the dog so he could rack up more steps than his friend. They aren’t always to be believed 🙂

  12. I love your walk types! Can we add the “aimless meander” as well as the “supermarket shuffle” round Waitrose when I clock up ten times the normal mileage around the shop floor because I’ve gone in without a list, with other stuff on my mind and when I do decide what to buy, the shop is out of it and I have to think again but have no inspiration and wander like a proverbial lost sheep! I’ve taken to walking in the early mornings because I felt that despite living in the country, I was becoming a couch potato and it’s been really enjoyable. I particularly like the fact that walking very similar routes every day means one notices even quite little changes about the landscape much more. E x

  13. I mix my walks up! I love walking with a purpose .. and I enjoy walking fast! But I adore nothing more than a walk with my camera swinging around my neck 😃 love your image Anne ..

  14. I have only just discovered your blog. We live in the beautiful but at the moment mud splattered Peak District. I am aiming in theory to do the 10,000 steps each day, but every walk involves seriously steep slopes. Are these steps worth more?!

    1. I should say so! The whole 10000 steps thing seems a bit of a gimmick don’t you think? One steep climb in the Peak District is probably ten times more exhausting than walking on a flat pavement.

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