Taking 10,000 Steps

Commentator Judy Muller tries out a pedometer and becomes preoccupied with counting her steps.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Our commentator Judy Muller took 10,000 steps for MORNING EDITION.

JUDY MULLER:

I have been putting one foot in front of the other for as long as I can remember. And suddenly putting one foot in front of the other requires counting. It means learning how to use a pedometer, an exhausting exercise in itself. Before I can set it, the instruction manual tells me, I must first precisely measure my stride. It occurs to me that I could shorten my stride so my pedometer would be fooled into thinking I've gone the recommended 10,000 steps by, say, noon after just a few round trips between the couch and the refrigerator. But instead I dutifully entered the correct data and set the pedometer to zero.

The next morning, pedometer in hand, I get out of bed and walk to the bathroom. Fifteen steps! And so the obsession begins. I try to keep on the move, even as I get dressed, which adds a slight edge of peril to the enterprise. By 9 AM, I have flown more than 800 miles, but to my horror have only walked about 1,000 steps. The day is suddenly looking very long. Since I had to get up at 4 AM in Los Angeles to fly to Portland, all I really want to do is go to my hotel and grab an hour's nap. But guilt is a powerful force, pushing me out the hotel door and across the street to a path along the Willamette River. It is a beautiful day with Mt. Hood shining in the distance. But this walk in the park is, in fact, no walk in the park. It's a job. And soon I am ignoring the scenery for sneak peeks at the pedometer. And I can see that a half-hour stroll is not going to cut it.

I also see a lot of fellow Americans who are blatantly ignoring the 10,000 step mandate. Some of them are actually sitting in the sun and reading. I feel a sense of righteous superiority creep into my step, which has just passed the 6,100 mark. After an hour of walking, I have hit 8,125. I would love to report the exact time I went over the top, but late in the afternoon, when I checked my pedometer for an update, it had the same readout as an hour before: 9,367 feet. So close, so stuck. So I check the instruction manual.

If you wear sandals, it says, the unit may cease to function. I had not only changed to sandals, I had also been going up and down stairs, which believe it or not, also causes the pedometer to stop. I could have climbed Mt. Hood and it wouldn't have registered. My righteous superiority is instantly transformed to righteous indignation. And so, my pedometer and I have parted ways.

I figure a one-hour walk every day, compounded by all the times I walk into a room and can't remember why, forcing me to retrace my steps, ought to do it. In other words, I'm going to put one foot in front of the other, countless times.

INSKEEP: The comments of Judy Muller, a very healthy ABC News correspondent and professor of journalism at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication.

You're listening to MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

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