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Three people walking on Northrop mall.

A stroll from Northrop Auditorium to Coffman Union--via Northrop Mall--would take you roughly 500 steps. Complete 10,000 steps and you've met the Surgeon General's recommendation of accumulating 30 minutes a day of activity.

Land of 10,000 steps

By Pauline Oo

September 17, 2007

There's a chill in the air, but the sun is still out and the leaves are still green. No excuse not to huff it. Walking is a cheap and easy way to exercise.

In fact, if you get 10,000 steps in a day, you've met the Surgeon General's recommendation of accumulating 30 minutes a day of activity--the magic bullet to help you live longer and healthier. According to the Mayo Clinic, regular aerobic exercise--such as walking, biking, or swimming--can reduce the risk of many health and chronic conditions, keep excess pounds at bay, ward off viral illnesses, strengthen your heart, and boost your mood.

So how easy--or hard--is it to reach 10,000 steps? Strap on a pedometer for a week, and see for yourself. Or read on.

If you spend all day in a chair and you walk only from your desk to the kitchen or bathroom, it's pretty hard to rack up the steps. (It takes me about 100 steps to get to my office kitchen, and back.) But if you incorporate walking as a mode of transportation, then, halleluiah, you're well on your way to that magic 10,000 number.

According to Murray Harber, manager of the University of Minnesota's UPlan Wellness program, there are approximately 2,000 steps per mile--the exact number of steps depends on a person's stride. Another way to mark those steps is to look at your watch; 1,000 steps roughly equal 10 minutes.

So, based on those calculations, if you're on the University's Twin Cities campus in Minneapolis, it should take you about 12 minutes and 1,200 steps to cover the half mile from the main entrance of Walter Library on the East Bank to the front door of Wilson Library across the river on the West Bank. (The span of the Washington Avenue pedestrian bridge itself takes me 525 steps.) And if you have to get from Johnston Hall to the Social Sciences Building for a meeting, plan on walking nearly a mile or 20 minutes--that's roughly a 1,600-step track.

Does bicycling count?

Yes, because you're still expending energy. Attaching a pedometer to your shoe doesn't work very well, but a minute of leisurely pedaling equals about 116 steps. How about each minute you spend scrubbing the floor? They're worth 110 steps each. Dancing? 131 steps a minute. And the soon-to-be-upon-us leaf-raking season will give you 125 steps for each minute you work. For more step equivalents (and tips on how to use a pedometer), see the HealthPartners conversion chart.

Before starting any type of exercise, including a vigorous walking program, make sure you get a doctor's approval if you're overweight or have a history of heart disease or medical problems. Once you have the green light, develop a walking plan--what are your goals or when would you walk, for instance--and keep a journal to track your progress.

Check out the Health Partners 10,000 Steps program, which is available to all University faculty and staff at no cost through the U's Employee Wellness Program. You'll get a free pedometer. Another perk, besides feeling better, is that UPlan members can earn a $65 wellness reward for completing the eight-week program.

Try the mall walker's special Walk from Coffman Union to Northrop Auditorium, and back, 10 times (alternating between the two bridges over Washington Avenue). Each way--from the base of the steps in front of Coffman Union to the base of the steps of leading into Northrop Auditorium from the plaza--is 500 steps.
Further reading UPlan Wellness reintroduces Health Connections with expanded benefits for 2007 U walks the talk