I'm revisiting my walking 10,000 steps a day principle, easing myself back into at the moment. This time around I've decided to start by simply measuring how many steps I take a day without setting out to achieve the 10K goal. I think this is helpful because it gives toy a baseline from which to work. Anyone who has ever set themselves a health or fitness goal knows that starting is the first hurdle, but once you start, the initial phase is full of enthusiasm. This can lead to over extending your efforts, and then it's down the slippery slope of relapse and failure through injury or boredom!
Getting a baseline is also useful because it tells you the truth about how sedentary you've become. It might surprise you and tell you that you're more active than you thought, but I suspect the former is more likely. It's important at this stage to record the data. It might sound a bit OCD to do that, but you need to know where you started. Getting fitter and healthier (the two are not the same) takes time and discipline. You will need a way of measuring the changes and it won't just be through the scales.
Once you have your baseline data, then you can start to get a bit more active. I'd suggest (assuming you have no medical reason not to do this) that you find a route that's a mile long and see how long it takes to walk it comfortably. Then maybe try it again and do it as quickly as you can without having to stop. control your pace and note down the times. This will give you another measure.
Having done my challenge before I know that I can walk 4 miles (6.Km) in an hour when I've been practicing. That's not too fast but fast enough. I also know that I can sustain that over at least 5 miles without any problems. That will be one of my first tests, to go out and see if I can walk 4 miles in an hour. This will help me work out how fit I am compared with two years ago.
Being healthy is another thing, and that really comes down to getting out of breath for at least 30 minutes 3 to 5 times a week. Given that I play tennis 3 times in an average week and at least 1.5 hours of that is playing singles, doing the extra walking will do the healthy part. fitness only improves with a progressive increase in effort. The technical term is 'progressive overload', and you get this by changing at least one of the following principles:
So, for example, if you're walking your 10,000 steps a day and your fitness has improved over say 3 to 4 weeks, the next stage will need you to change of of these principles. But you might not have any more time available, so you can't walk for longer or more often. The easiest thing to do is to find a hill to add to your route. That will change the intensity. Easy if you live in Nottingham, where I grew up, less easy if your out in the fens! The other choice would be to change you speed. Walk faster, even add a little bit of running. When I go out walking I sometimes run for short bursts, say 3-4 minutes. That pushes up the intensity quite nicely.
The point of this is that it's not actually that complicated to do something about improving health and fitness. small changes, discipline and determination go a long way, provided that is that you get off the couch and into those rather too clean pair of trainers you keep hidden at the back of the wardrobe.