Martin Lewis: I averaged 25,437 steps a day (burning 3,993 calories) in 2021 – here's how...
This is my sixth annual steps blog. My well-documented obsession with the 'quantified self' is showing no sign of abating. According to my tracker, I did 9,284,614 steps (nearly 400,000 more than last year) – a ridiculous, hopefully healthy obsession.
I bash out a blog each year, as a permanent record for me, and as I know many people who've read past versions have taken up and enjoyed their own step challenges.
And, BOOM, 2021 was a new record – a soupcon ahead of 2017's prior best, averaging 17 steps a day more. Not bad as part of the year was locked down.
When I put the two years side by side, what I noticed was 2017 was pumped up by a decent number of very high step days.
In contrast, I did very few days over 35,000 steps in 2021, but was far more consistent. Of course, as normal there were no days without hitting the 10,000 steps buzz – the 'never miss my buzz' is a rock-solid personal rule. In fact, in October 2021 I hit five years without missing that target (even with long-haul flights, injury, a little sickness or getting up early to get the steps in before minor surgeries).
Yet maintaining a minimum 20,000 steps was a goal (not a rule) and I only missed that on 14 days, so that's 351 days of 20,000 or more.
MONTHLY STEPS 2021
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 in 2021 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 last 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
This is what really drives my steps. If I have a phone call to make, or a meeting that doesn't need a video call, then I do it while walking. Often this is outdoors – I try to get all my calls arranged in a row, so I can have a long walk.
Each Thursday for example, I don't get transport to the studio for my show. I do the 75-minute walk, whatever the weather, and whilst walking I'm in a Google meet with the team to work through the structure of the show. We usually finish the meet about five minutes before I arrive.
If I can't get outside to walk, then we have a home treadmill. I've always used it for some of my running, but since the pandemic I've used that to walk on too. And if it's a friend calling for a quick chat in the evening, I just jump up from my seat and start walking around the room.
Of course for non-steppers this will read like a bizarre habit, but obeying self-imposed routines is what keeps me stepping and, in my view, that's very positive for health and wellbeing.
I do 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 2021 step stats in detail
|Total||Daily average||Total||Daily average|
|Best calendar month||
2021: 837,580 (April)
|Best calendar week||
How I do this number of steps each year
As soon as I got a tracker, I started walking more, as a numbers person this self-monitoring had a real impact.
Yet the steps aren't just from walking. I run and cross-train too, and keep an extra, separate graph for those (using a GPS watch for accuracy outdoors).
In 2020 I smashed the pants off my 'km a year' run (and some cross-training), and I managed to just pip that in 2021, hitting a personal-best 3,277km (60km+ a week).
This is many scales of magnitude more than I ran in pre-tracker years. 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 (the first year was 600km, the next 1,000km, then 2,000km, now 3,000km) which means every run, even a slow one, feeds the graph.
However, even with all this running, by far the bulk of the distance, over 60%, is done walking. My mentality is to try to avoid any other form of transport unless there's a good reason:
- It's over 10km away or over 3km if I'm with mini MSE.
- It's very early or very late.
- I've got golf clubs with me.
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 my body energy use has increased.
My core stability is stronger, and some 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 almost more for my mental as well as physical health, but also the walking – for the few minutes I'm off the phone when walking, a little bit of me-time or listening to an audiobook in a day is useful.
I do worry about my knees – they're continuing to hold up pretty well, but I know that may be an issue one day.
A side-effect of my 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 added a weight training graph too, to encourage me to do that. I did 176 sessions (min 30 minutes) in 2021, again a new record.
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 – unsurprisingly, I do get a tad competitive about it).
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. I hope a few more do after reading this.
If you're a stepper too, do let me know below how you did last year...