It's a great time of year to go for a walk
Three weeks ago a physiotherapist called me aside at work and asked would I be interested in taking part in the HSE Steps to Health Challenge. She explained that the HSE was running, excuse the pun, a fitness challenge. It's now in its third week and from what I understand HSE staff countrywide have been invited to take part. The challenge involves counting the number of steps we take over the five-week period. It began on Monday May 15.
With today's technology there are all sorts of gizmos to measure the number of steps one takes. You can download an app on to your smart phone or you can measure your steps with a watch-like device that is called a Fitbit. There are more sophisticated gadgets that, along with measuring the number of steps you take, also measure your activity on a bicycle plus the number of strokes you take while swimming. And these gadgets also give you heart beat readings plus all sorts of other data on how your body is functioning. Guess what, they also tell the time.
If you don't have such a sophisticated device a simple pedometer clipped on to your belt will do the job. Okay, it will not do any of the fancy footwork but it will tell you the number of steps you take in the day. Have you any idea how far you walk on any given day, any notion of the average walking distance you do in a week?
The Steps to Health Challenge aims to get people walking and the overall plan is to entice people to walk 10,000 steps a day, which is the equivalent of eight kilometres or five miles a day. According to the experts who know about these things most people walk between 3,000 and 5,000 steps every day.
The idea is of course to get people doing more walking. Instead of using the lift, walk up the stairs. If you have a spare 15 minutes at lunchtime, rather than sitting down, go out for a quick walk. Is there really need for you to drive to work? Every step counts.
According to the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu, who is said to have been a contemporary of Confucius, 'A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step'. And that's certainly a good one-liner to set you on your way. The purpose of the challenge is to make people more conscious of the benefits of taking exercise.
We are now just at the half-way point and I have to admit it is great fun. I have a pedometer clipped to my belt and must say that it is almost addictive. For the purposes of the challenge, staff have been divided into teams of three and each team has to come up with its own name. There are prizes for clever names and fun walking ideas, novel video clips, indeed, for all sorts of imaginative ideas.
It's an ideal time to run the challenge as this surely is the best time of the year to take to Shank's Mare. Walking is a fabulous way to become aware of our surroundings, hearing the sounds of birds, the chatter of people. It's also of course a great way to relax, whether on urban streets, along towpaths or walking in the hills. Only last week I discovered a lovely walk along the Royal Canal and saw for the first time a statue of Brendan Behan near Binn's Bridge.
It was Hippocrates who said: 'Walking is a man's best friend'.
Congrats to the HSE for coming up with the idea.