Beyond the 1 million steps challenge

Can short term changes make a long term difference? Shift’s Jennie reflects back on the past three months of the  and whether step counting will feature in life outside the Diabetes UK 1 million steps challenge…

A confident start

When I first came up with the idea of taking part in the Diabetes UK 1 million steps challenge I have to admit, I thought it would be a bit of a walk in the park (excuse the pun). I’d only really considered how easy I would find it physically. What I hadn’t considered was how tough it would be to fit it into my life and mentally how I would struggle with that.

The first week of the challenge I was wondering what on earth I’d let myself in for. One of the main reasons being I was totally demotivated by the cheap fitness tracker I’d bought. That week I was on holiday in Cornwall with my husband and our then 18-month-old daughter. We must have walked miles yet my step count was still nowhere near the required daily average. It wasn’t until the end of the week I realised my tracker wasn’t counting anything I was doing whilst pushing the pushchair. I was half relieved, half frustrated I’d missed out on a large number of steps towards my total.

Getting into the groove

Thankfully, armed with a Fitbit a week or so later my motivation picked up and I started to get into a habit of doing certain things to earn my step count. I knew roughly how many steps I could get from different walking routes and I started to build them into my daily routine. Some days the steps came easily, others not so much. I had to spend a lot of time walking on my own in the evening to catch up, leaving my husband and daughter at home. Which although I enjoyed to a certain extent as some ‘me time’, I regularly felt guilty about it and like I was missing out on important time with the family.

On the whole though I have really enjoyed the challenge. I feel great and although I didn’t need to lose weight I’ve shifted a few extra pounds which were still lingering after having my daughter. The main thing I wanted to get out of this was to build some good habits into my daily routine which I would be able to continue beyond the challenge.

Forming permanent habits

Only time will tell whether I’ve achieved that. But the day after the challenge finished I had not a lot planned and every intention of putting my feet up (well, as much as you can do with a toddler around). Yet later that morning I found myself wrapping my daughter up in her coat and wellies to walk to the local park which is normally an activity I reserve for warm sunny days, not damp blustery ones. In the afternoon I headed off to a friend’s house a 15 minute walk away rather than taking the car. I honestly don’t think I would have done either of these things before the one million steps challenge.

My step count that day was about 8,000 which during the challenge wouldn’t have seemed very impressive. But it felt like an achievement as half of these were steps I wouldn’t ordinarily have done.

I’m still wearing my Fitbit to track my activity and hopefully keep me motivated not to slip back into old habits. But I’ll use it in a slightly different way – focusing more on a variety of factors rather than simply the number of steps.

Being active is important but to me it’s as important to find a balance which doesn’t solely focus on one variable and which works for your own personal circumstances. For example I would much rather walk my daughter to the park at the end of the road and watch her run about having a great time in the fresh air than walking on my own whilst she’s having a nap at home.  Even though the latter would probably add up to triple the number of steps in the same amount of time. It’s all about finding a happy medium I can keep up in the long term.

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