Martin Lewis: I averaged 24,630 steps a day (burning 3,886 calories) in 2022 – here's how...
My well-documented fixation with the 'quantified self' has not yet abated, though according to my tracker, I didn't quite hit last year's high. In 2022 I did 8,989,908 steps – a little under 300,000 fewer than 2021. That, put another way, is 8,230km in the year, an average of 22.5km (14 miles) a day.
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.
So welcome to my seventh annual steps blog, written as a permanent record for me, and because I know many people who've read past versions have taken up and enjoyed their own step challenges.
My steps are all built based on self-imposed rules. The sacrosanct one is to never miss the 10,000 a day buzz (it's arbitrary, but a goal's a goal). In late October I hit my sixth anniversary since I last failed to do that, so it's now over 2,200 days since I last failed to do 10,000. That time has included long-haul flights (I get up early to ensure I get the steps in), injury, illness, and lockdown.
Softer goals that I try to meet include 20,000 steps on a normal day (I missed that about 20 times in 2022), 160,000 minimum steps a week (I missed that about five times) and 750,000 steps in all months except February (sadly I missed that three times in 2022).
My 2022 steps
To help me hit these targets, I'm fortunate enough to have a home treadmill and now, to protect my knees, I've added an elliptical (cross trainer).
I start almost every day with between 40 minutes and an hour of cardio on those (often while reading the papers or key documents for the day), which means I'm normally on 8,000 steps or more before I do anything else. However, that's only the second biggest factor...
My one simple rule to get my steps… if I'm talking, I'm walking
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 Tuesday 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 I either walk around and around my office, or go downstairs and walk on the treadmill. In fact it's now instinctive that if the phone rings and I'm sitting down, I jump up before I answer it, even if it's a friend in the evening, I just jump up from my seat and start walking around the room (and yes, if I've not quite made my target, then I will walk around and around the house near midnight to get over the limit).
For non-steppers this will read like a bizarre habit, but obeying self-imposed routines can help with health and fitness, so if it keeps me stepping, it's good.
My 2022 step stats in detail
I got my first fitness tracker in 2015, and it had an instant impact on me. As I blogged my 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021 steps, I can easily chart my progression. I've not included the calorie count as I think it's very loose, but this year it says I apparently averaged 3,886 calories burnt a day.
|Total||Daily average||Total||Daily average|
|Best calendar month||
2022: 809,370 (Apr)
|Best calendar week||
PS: Having read this table, MSE Helen S calculated that since 2015, I've walked/run almost exactly 1.5 times round the world (and yet I'm still not getting anywhere!).
How does this compare to pre-tracker years?
As soon as I got a tracker, I started walking more. As a numbers person, this self-monitoring had a real impact.
A good example of this is in my running and cross training (which I have a separate graph for, of course). I used to do this before I had trackers, but the amount I do now is scales of magnitude more.
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.
Partly due to the tracker, I switched to an annual distance target which means every run, even a slow one, feeds the graph. In 2020 I smashed the pants off my 'km a year' run (and cross training) doing over 2,000km, when in the past 1,000km had been good. In 2021 I beat that again hitting a personal-best 3,100km. I didn't quite crack that this year, but still did 3,033km.
However, even with all this running, by far the bulk of the steps, over 60%, are done walking. My mentality is to try to avoid any other form of transport unless there's a good reason, for example:
- It's over 10km away or over 3km if I'm with mini MSE.
- It's very early or very late (or I'm very late).
- I've got golf clubs with me.
The health impact
I'm substantially lighter than when I started stepping – no surprise, as according to my fitness tracker I'm burning 3,500 to 4,000 calories a day. I'm not sure how real that number is, but certainly my body energy use is far greater.
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).
I tend to think of running as for fitness and my mental health, while walking is for physical health and relaxation – 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. Sadly it isn't a cure-all for stress and anxiety, but I hope it helps reduce some of the impact.
A risk to 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. In 2022, I ramped that up and did 196 sessions (20 more than my prior record for the year before).
Are the steps accurate?
Apparently, according to the technology broadcaster @LaraLewington (also known in these blogs as Mrs MSE), step accuracy has improved a lot in recent years. In 2015 she did a film wearing four different trackers for a week and there were substantial inconsistencies between them. Yet a repeat of that in 2022 (which sadly isn't available online) showed how much things had improved.
Regardless though, accuracy is less important than consistency. I compete with myself based on the same metrics – number of steps in a day.
And my fixation hasn't only helped me – when some friends who are linked via an app see my steps, they often up their own steppage (though others have also found it demotivating to be linked to an obsessive). Unsurprisingly, I do get a tad competitive about it.
Best of all though and a reason for keeping writing an annual blog is that each year, many people have been in contact to say that they inspired them to start stepping more – especially the 'never miss your buzz' challenge. Maybe a few more will do after reading this.
If you're a stepper too, do let me know how you did last year either via the forum discussion below or Twitter.