The myth of ten thousand steps, that you need to walk 10000 steps a day to be fit and healthy, was devised in Japan by pedometer manufacturers. It was an auspicious number, chosen purely to help shift more units.
The myth has been so successful that 10000 steps has entered our shared cultural psyche as the number to reach despite not being based on any evidence or research.
The 10000 hour rule to achieve mastery of something, as popularised by Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers, was based on research from Anders Ericsson that expertise was the result of "extended deliberate practice". The idea is that anyone can become an expert if they put the work in; it's not inate ability that gets us there but this extensive practice.
Ericsson, however, never mentioned a 10000 hours rule or a rule of any kind, the ideas around this are the result of misinterpretations of his work. It was actually an observation that the average time spent by elite music performers was 10000 hours by the age of 20, not that it was a magic number. But, when you consider these same performers, on average, won competitions in their 30's you're actually looking at 20000 to 25000 hours to reach mastery, not 10000.
Just like the pedometer manufacturers, Gladwell and others chose 10000 because it was an auspicious number, a convenient target.
10000 just sounds good. 25000 is also good but 10000 is way more achievable for most people. Anything higher starts to seem unobtainable.
While experiencing an eye problem recently it was noticed that my blood pressure was both up and erratic. I underwent various tests including an ECG and was found to have high triglycerides (bad cholesterol) as well as becoming pre-diabetic.
I'll admit to not having had the most ideal of diets and being overweight but this came as a shock.
I had been on a gluten free diet for some time to help counter my IBS but there are issues with that. Most gluten free food, it transpires, is relatively high in carbohydrates which is bad for diabetics. The common misconception with diabetes is that the problem is sugar - it's not, it's carbs. Sugar is a type of carb. That's why food nutrition labels say Carbs... Of which sugars...
Look at a lot of slimming foods - low fat products. Yes, they may be low fat but they are filled with salt and sugar to make them taste better because the fats are what have them their flavour, character and consistency.
It is another misconception - do X and Y will happen but this completely ignores Z.
It's good to have targets, it's good to have goals, but they have to be the right goals
Pre-lockdown I would usually hit my 10000 steps on weekdays (not so often at weekends) - it's good that I have something to aim for, something that prompts me to get up and go for a walk at lunch time, but 10000 is arbitrary, getting in 10000 isn't going to solve anyone's problems. It will help but it is not the only answer.
I recently overheard a conversation on the train where a woman was moaning to a friend that her smart band wasn't connecting to her phone properly, not correctly recording her steps. She said something along the lines of "I'll have the opportunity to do thousands of steps today but they won't count if they're not on here" - here being the phone.
We become slaves to these misconceptions, beholden to them.
Some is better than none, it's a start. More is better than some. Even more is even better but it has to be weighed against everything else. We can't just keep doing more and more steps, we have to balance what we do against the time we have, our current state of health and ability, the food we eat and then have to look at the impact of that food. Low fat doesn't necessarily mean good for us.
Over the past few months I've taken great strides to deal with and improve my mental health so this has all been a bit of a wake-up call with regards to my physical health. The two must go hand in hand, one cannot be neglected in favour of the other.
I've gotten back on the reading wagon since the last letter and it feels good. I've completed a few more chapters of Silence. I find Thich Nhat Hanh's style of writing very unobtrusive, it's an easy read and he re-emphasises his points so frequently, so carefully, that you learn without feeling like you're learning.
There are little snippets, just parts of sentences, that make you stop and think, such as:
"We need to stop consuming sensory food as a response to the compulsive urge to avoid ourselves."
"We need to ask ourselves, am I speaking just to speak..."
That second one is something that can carry through to every aspect of our lives and makes me think about what I'm doing with blogging.
And that's it...
I had originally started writing this as the second letter but felt I needed to get those other thoughts out of the way. It placed a bit more space between going to the doctor and writing about it giving a valuable chance to reflect instead of react.
Take care and stay safe.