Posted by Jean Adams
Well, now I’ve read the Wikipedia entry on healthism, I think I am only a part-time health fascist. I’m strongly in favour of living a healthy lifestyle and of the government going out of its way to make this easier for everyone to achieve. I don’t necessarily think that “the problem of health and disease [is situated] at the level of the individual." In fact, I read a great article this week taking an evolutionary approach to socio-economic inequalities in health behaviours. The phrase that most sticks in my mind is: “if you want to change an organism’s behaviour, you need to change its environment”.
But, anyway. I’m all for the healthy lifestyle. As a public health insider, I try to set a good example without the need for environmental or motivational interventions. I don't buy any of that "these targets are unobtainable" stuff. I eat my five-a-day. I do my 5x30 minutes of physical activity per week. I don’t smoke. I don’t drink. I don’t have multiple partners (well, not in bed). OK, I admit it, I do drive marginally (a lot) faster than the speed limit on occasion (every day).
|Surely I do enough running to make the grade? (photo: Martin White)|
If totally motivated, no kids, decent salary, partner who definitely does almost 50% of the housework, me can’t meet the guidance, who can?
So, it was with rather gay abandon that I took on a step-challenge competition with some colleagues. The idea is that we should be taking 10,000 steps per day. This is, apparently, equivalent to walking about 5 miles. At a brisk pace of 20 minutes per mile, that would be an hour and 40 minutes per day. So, quite a lot more than your 30 minutes, five times a week. Unfortunately, I didn’t stop to work all of this out until after agreeing to the challenge.
The bottom line is that I thought it would be easy-peasy. My colleague reports he manages his 10,000 steps easily. Obviously super-healthy me is going to totally Whup. His. Ass.
As health researchers, we know all about the problems of measurement error and the importance of comparing like with like. The competition will, therefore, involve standard issue pedometers – a step counting gadget that my colleague has taken the trouble to validate against more expensive gadgets.
Yesterday was my first day on the pedometer. I had a fairly normal day that included a short bike commute and a six mile run. I only managed 9089 steps.
Now come on! That’s not fair. How can a six mile run not be enough? This gadget is obviously useless. Everyone knows that a running step is longer than a walking step. And think of all the extra energy involved in running versus walking. My steps are clearly worth a lot more than other people’s steps.
So you can take your 10,000 step challenge back. Your targets are totally unrealistic and unobtainable. I’m not playing anymore.