Martin Lewis: I averaged 24,300 steps a day (burning 3,910 calories) in 2020 – here's how...
As is now pretty well documented, I'm obsessed with statistics tracking my fitness. Each year I knock out an annual steps report. This is the one for 2020. According to my tracker, I did 8,889,800 steps – a ridiculous, hopefully healthy obsession.
This is only 20 steps a day on average fewer than last year, and in third place on this measure since I started blogging this five years ago, my record being 2017's 9,278,393 steps – averaging well over 25,000 a day. Then again, in the year of lockdown pandemic, I'm quite happy to have maintained my step levels.
Friends often mention to me their big step days, but for me the real key is consistency. In October I hit four years since I last missed my daily vibration (nowt saucy, just what happens when I hit 10,000 steps), after pulling my hamstring.
To keep going that long isn't always easy: it's included days on long-haul flights, and even when I've had minor surgery. My focus now is on getting to five years without missing a day – injuries and not discipline are the key hurdle (and I won't be hurdling, as that'd almost certainly lead to injury).
Of course, this year's big step challenge (irrelevant of course compared to real challenges for physical and mental health, business and incomes) was lockdown. In late March when my walks to drop mini MSE off at school into MSE Towers ended, it took me a few weeks to adjust my routine, so April was my lowest step month for a few years with 650,000.
MONTHLY STEPS 2020
(NB: This is missing the last day of the year)
We're fortunate enough to have a home treadmill, which played a big part in this. I've always used it for some of my running, but this year I started walking on it as well.
Pre-Covid, my day usually started with an hour's worth of phone meetings as I walked to work. So instead this year, every phone meeting I did, I just got on the treadmill and walked the whole time. My rule was simple, wherever possible…
If I’m talking, I’m walking.
I even contemplated doing this when giving evidence to the Treasury Select Committee via Zoom about the pandemic's impact, but a video pic of my head bobbing up and down may have lacked the necessary decorum.
Of course, I recognise this 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. As once I do, I'm not sure it'll ever come back.
My 2020 step stats
|Total||Daily average||Total||Daily average|
|Best calendar month||
2020: 808,234 (July)
|Best calendar week||
How I do this number of steps each year
I'm 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 smashed the pants off my 'km a year' run (and some cross-training) personal-best this year, hitting 3,100 km (50 km+ a week), over 900 km higher than last year, my prior best. This was due to lockdown as I felt I needed to hit the streets/treadmill to get my runs in, as much for my mental health as for owt else.
I did run in pre-tracker years, but nowhere near as far. And back then 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.
I still record times, but have switched to an annual distance target (first year was 600 km, the next 1,000 km, then 2,000, now 3,000) which means every run, even a slow one, feeds the graph.
However, even with all this running, by far the bulk of the distance is done walking. My mentality is to try to avoid any other form of transport unless there's a good reason, eg, it's over 10 km away (or over three if I'm with mini MSE), or needing to carry golf clubs.
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, pre-Covid, 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 do worry about my knees – they're holding up pretty well right now, but I know that may be an issue one day. One other fitness problem of step-obsession is it means I tend to be put off exercise which gets me no steps. So over the last couple of years I've started a weight training graph too.
That saw me do 149 sessions this year (down from 153 last year, but probably better quality) and hit my bench press target of 90 kg (and yes that's graphed too, obvs).
Are the steps accurate?
Not 100%, no. In fact, while it was filmed a few years ago now, 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 that 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...
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