Those of you who are longtime readers of this blog have followed my getting on the steps bandwagon three years ago. Over the course of seventy years I’ve encountered any number of health bandwagons.
Let’s see. First there was margarine. My mother was raised on a farm. She first switched from butter to margarine during World War II when rationing was enforced. After the war, she stuck with Oleo Margarine as a matter of economics. Margarine was cheaper than butter. By the way margarine had been invented during World War II as a butter substitute. (By the way, that’s World War TWO not World War Eleven or worse, World War Pause!)
But then, sometime later, butter became public health enemy number one. Eventually bacon and eggs—especially egg yolks—landed on the verboten list. Thus it happened that some people—generally hair-shirt wearing individuals—changed their preferred breakfast menu to scrambled egg whites with a side of tomatoes and unbuttered toast. Unbuttered toast? Are you kidding? Count me out. I can think of few things closer to food for the gods than Dave’s Killer Bread toasted and slathered with a pat of butter and a dollop of Lingonberry Jam.
Generally speaking, people don’t go around making fun of those unbuttered toast folks. Well, admittedly, I just DID make fun of them, but I didn’t go so far as to say do you really think that eating egg whites and unbuttered toast will add a day to your longevity? There are probably plenty of egg white only and unbuttered toast studies out there —if the scientists involved can convince enough people to live that way for the time necessary to actually have a well-funded study, one you and I most likely paid for, by the way. The point is, no such study comes readily to hand as I sit here typing.
We’ve all lived through the red wine bad/red wine good arguments. That was followed by coffee good/coffee bad/coffee good ad infinitum. I believe the last I heard coffee was good again because it reduced the likelihood of developing Alzheimers. Bear in mind, however, that one person’s study cancels out another person’s study. So here’s what I’m doing. I drink coffee. I drink red wine. I’m all right so far.
And then there was the Low-Fat “gospel” which caused a whole generation of people to buy nothing but low fat milk—which, it turns out, has very little nutritional value. Not to mention the low carb gospel which suggested that every carb in the universe was bad news. Those people haven’t eaten Dave’s Killer Bread, either. And wait, I just heard that there’s no scientific evidence that Probiotics are good for your internal organs. But hey, if you love your Active, have at it. So I drink whole milk. I never got on the Active bandwagon, so I’m good there.
Some of you, suspecting that a rant may be in the offing, are waiting for the other shoe to fall, and here it is. This week I came across the following snarky headline from the NY Post:
Sorry, fitness fanatics: Your 10,000-step goal is bogus
The article in question explained that it was based on a study of 16,741 “older women” ages 62 to 101. A total of 504 of them died during the course of the four year study which was conducted by a Harvard researcher named I-Min Lee. I suspect Ms. Lee or maybe Dr. Lee is in a somewhat younger age bracket and regards anyone over 60 as elderly. I also envision her of being all of five foot nothing and clocking in a ninety-three pounds soaking wet. In her youthful wisdom she concluded that less than half of those 10,000 steps are actually necessary. She claimed that the people who did 4400 steps daily had the best longevity outcomes, and that notching more than 7,500 might actually be detrimental to your health. Well, let’s see, if you do 6400 more steps a day, I suppose that gives you that many more chances of tripping and falling, and you don’t need to read an expensive Harvard-based study to understand that falls are bad for “elderly” women!
The study was evidently inspired by the researcher’s realization that the “conventional wisdom” as to the value of those 10,000 steps goal grew out of an ad campaign related to the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. Well folks, I already knew about that factoid long before today’s “Bogus” headline! In fact, the real reason that ad campaign limited participants to 10,000 steps is this: The pedometer the Japanese invented for people to use while counting their steps only went up to 10,000. Beyond 10,000 it rolled right back to zero which is, if you’ll pardon my saying so, a bit discouraging and maybe even counter-productive..
So however that 10,000 number came into being—lucky or not; bogus or not—it’s gospel for me because it has worked for me. When I moved my game up from 1500 steps a day to 10,000, I weighed 265 pounds and was wearing size 26 pants. I’m at 199.2 as pf this morning. My pants are size sixteen. I had to get my size sixteen rear in gear last night to put in those last 500 steps before the clock struck midnight and my counter rolled back overtook zero.
That 10,000 step number may not be magic, but it translates to a daily walk of 4.8 miles. Before my 71st birthday I never imagined myself as waking close to five miles every single day. But that’s my goal now —making my ten. I don’t CARE where that number came from. I don’t know if walking this way will make me live one day longer or one day less. I DON’T CARE! It makes me feel better while I’m doing it. I makes me feel as though I’m accomplishing something—as though I’ve established a goal and I’’m MEETING THAT GOAL.
I’m sure you’ve heard the expression “damning with faint praise.” It’s something I encounter often—most notably at book signings from people who consider their literary choices to be far more high-brow that mere humdrum mysteries. It generally goes like this: I don’t read murder mysteries, but I’m sure yours are FINE.” Well, yes, as a matter of fact, they are!
At that’s Ms. Lee, for you—damning with faint praise. At the end of the article, this researcher who is most likely right in line with those dry toast adherents, allows as how if you want to disregard her advice and notch those extra steps, “more power to you,” she said. The article didn’t quote her as capping that sentence with the words, “Go ahead and make my day,”, but I’m pretty sure I heard them all the same.
And you know what? I don’t care about that, either!
Now I’m going to go walk.
See you when I hit my ten.