Martin Lewis: I averaged 24,322 steps a day (burning 3,800 calories) in 2019 – here's how...
As regulars will know, I'm obsessed with fitness-tracking statistics. So this is my annual steps report for 2019. According to my tracker, I did 8,877,851 steps – a ridiculous number, a healthy obsession.
That's my fourth year of big steps. And while this year's number is more than last year's 8,582,412, it's still second to my 2017 record of 9,278,393.
Consistency is my steps motto. In October I hit three years since I last missed a daily vibration (nowt saucy, just what happens when I hit 10,000 steps). It's not always easy to do, especially on days with a long-haul flight, or even when I've had minor surgery.
The trickiest time in 2019 to keep on stepping was through the pain of my (scarily widely reported) throat ulcer. I just managed to eke out 10,000 daily steps, my week's stats dropping to 87,428 (an average 12,500 a day), the first time since 2016 I've dropped under 100,000. In context, my next-lowest week of the year was 148,000 (an average 21,000 a day).
Of course, I recognise it is an obsession. Yet it's a deliberate one. I can and sometimes do feel like stopping. However, the health benefits over the last few years have been so positive, I don't want to let it go.
My 2019 step stats
|Total||Daily average||Total||Daily average|
|Best calendar month||
|Best calendar week||
How I do this number of steps
I'm both a numbers person and ferociously competitive, so 'quantified self' tech is a perfect motivator for me as it hits my psyche square on. It won't necessarily do that for everyone. As soon as I got a tracker, I started walking more, and this self-monitoring is the driver.
I wear the tracker for running and walking and have a separate running graph (using a GPS watch for accuracy) that shows I just beat my 'km per year' run personal-best this year, hitting 2,260 km (I try to run at least 'a marathon a week' in total – so about 40k over three or four runs). Though I have to admit I've counted some cross-training in these km this year, done to reduce knee impact and injury.
I did run before the tracker, but nowhere near as far. And I would graph my times to see if I got quicker. Yet with speed as my key performance indicator, as progression isn't linear, if I'd start a run and realise it wasn't a fast day, it was demotivating and I'd sometimes stop. Switching to an annual distance target (first year was 600 km, the next 1,000 km, now 2,000) meant that every run feeds the graph.
However, even with the running, by far the bulk of the distance is done walking, a total of 5,816 km. While I still work a lot of hours, these days I'm in a position to be able to dictate much of my workflow, which makes doing this number of steps much easier for me than for many people who are desk-bound.
I very rarely get any form of transport now – except the bus to take mini MSE to school (I then walk back), the Good Morning Britain car early on a Thursday morning, and if I play golf.
Usually I walk to and from MSE Towers and elsewhere in London, off to ITV or Parliament or wherever I am going for meetings. Walking across town and back more than once in a day for meetings is commonplace.
My PA, who is complicit in this, kindly organises most of my internal and external meetings (even talking to ministers or doing newspaper interviews) to do on the phone while I'm walking, so my walking time is never wasted. I even have a headset with noise-cancelling microphone, so the audio quality is high for those on the other end.
Plus, even if I'm on the phone and don't have a journey, I walk around the room as I make the call. Doing this for a 30-minute call can add a couple of thousand steps (and if I'm not at the target I want to hit, yes, I will walk round while watching TV to hit it late at night).
The health impact and cost
I'm substantially lighter than when I started stepping – no surprise, as according to my fitness tracker I'm burning 3,500-4,000 calories a day. I'm not sure how real that number is, but certainly I burn much more than I used to.
My core strength has increased, and a lot of my repetitive strain injury and back pain has gone (I'd never put this together until I mentioned it to a physio and he asked if I now walked more, as apparently it's a great help for backs).
It's also been very good for stress levels. Not just the running, which is as much for my mental as physical health, but also the walking – for the few minutes off the phone when I'm walking, a little bit of me-time in a day is useful.
I did go through a phase where needing to do steps would manipulate my day and dictate my actions to hit my steps target. I've stepped (sorry) back from that now a touch, though I do still take into account step count when thinking of logistics.
The one fitness problem of step-obsession though is it means I tend to be put off exercise which gets me no steps, such as cycling or swimming.
In fact, the tracker does miss my big fitness story of this year – which is weight training. To help, I started a graph of that too, and this year that helped me manage 153 sessions (of from 20 to 90 minutes) and I hope to focus a little more on that the next year, and I think the incremental gain is good, whereas increasing my running length now will have minimal impact.
Are the steps accurate?
Not 100%, no. In fact, you can watch Mrs MSE wearing four different trackers for a week to see how inaccurate they are. Yet that doesn't matter. I compete with myself based on the same metrics – number of steps in a day.
And my fixation hasn't only helped me – when friends who are linked via the app see my steps, they often up their own steppage (still, they rarely top me in a week though – I am super competitive about it – obvs!).
I'm also delighted that after previous blogs, many people have been in contact to say they inspired them to start stepping more – especially the 'never miss your buzz' challenge.
If you're a stepper too, do let me know below how you did last year...