I Miss my Pre-COVID Steps

Tall Toronto buildings in the distance, including the CN Tower

Before the pandemic, snagging 10,000 steps seemed so easy for me. It was just a 20 minute walk from the train to the office, 20 minutes midday to grab my lunch, and then a 20 minute walk after work to commute home, as well as the steps involved in just getting up from my desk, etc. My regular workouts (like spinning for cardio or boxing for strength) did their job of getting me fit. And while I’ve been able to stick with my workouts (and even work out more) during the lockdowns, I’ve realized that those steps had more of a physical impact than I thought.

Apparently I’m not as unique as I think I am. A worldwide study of over 19 million people, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, reports that within the first 10 days of the global declaration of the pandemic, we were taking 5.5% less steps a day — a mean of 287 steps. And that number grew as the days went on. Although the research didn’t cover our second lockdown, if I were a study subject, you’d notice it go down to 287 steps a day. I mean, going from my bedroom to my laptop is not worthy of my iPhone or Fitbit even tracking.

Here’s how walking can benefit the brain.

So, for 2021, I want to sneak back in those moments of low-impact, daily physical movement that I’ve been missing. So the other day, before my workday started, I hopped on my stationary bike and did a leisurely 20-minute ride through Cinque Terre on the Peloton app. I did the same at lunch, and again at 5 p.m. And then I did my regular Pilates workout before dinner. And it was awesome!

When I was health editor at Glow Magazine, Eva Redpath once told me that humans are meant to be active throughout the day, and that workouts are meant to supplement what we can’t achieve in a day. So my regular workouts felt like they replaced the walking I wasn’t doing.

I’m not one for resolutions (I find they focus too much on the January 1 date than the actual goal or process even), but I’ve decided to stick with this. So here is a list of movement equivalents to 10,000 steps a day (which generally takes from 60 to 90 minutes). All of which, like walking, can be broken up throughout the day.

Working from home: Exercise equivalents for 10,000 steps

ExerciseUnits
Brisk walk7,000 steps
Cycling60 minutes
Skipping30 minutes
Dancing40 minutes
House cleaning30 minutes
Stairs30 minutes
Stretching60 minutes
Jogging30 minutes
Yoga30 minutes
Standing while you work4 to 8 hours