I started running a pedometer shortly after I arrived in Madrid.
This was part curiosity, part health goal, part desire to measure and track various habits and behaviors. I’d read that it’s recommended to walk about 10,000 steps a day, but that many Americans only manage closer to 3,500 due to our driving habits and generally more sedentary lifestyles.
This passed my sniff test, as I know from experience how my own habits shift between the United States and when I’m abroad. I’ve written before about my love for walking, and the sheer walkability of many European cities is part of what draws me back. I hate driving everywhere, the entire experience of navigating traffic, searching for parking spots, walking to and from my car through parking lots. I often feel like the parking lots themselves increase the need for cars, because they spread everything so far apart that they make areas less walkable. Part of what thrills my imagination at the thought of autonomous vehicles is that it may mark the end of parking lots.
So I was curious to see, here in Spain, how much I would walk, and how quickly I might burst that 10,000-step barrier in a day. It turns out that it’s very easy to accomplish on any given day, but much harder to do consistently.
Essentially, we’re talking about 5 miles of walking. That sounds like much more than it actually is. Almost any time I leave my flat, I’m likely to pound out 3- or 4,000 steps, just from walking to and from the grocery store (and wandering around inside trying to find some surprisingly elusive ingredient).
And yet, if I don’t particularly do anything in a day, it’s all to easy to miss that mark. It’s essentially the difference between one good walk and two. Did I not leave my flat at all? 3000 steps. Did I leave it once to walk to a coffee shop or do some grocery shopping? 6000 steps. Did I have a good day today? 10,000 steps.
Literally: there is a super high correlation between how many steps I walked, and how good of a day I had. And it’s not just because “walking” is code for “exploring this amazing European city where I happen to be living at the moment” (although that’s obviously a factor). No, it also has quite a bit to do with fresh air, sunlight, blood flowing through my brain.
I’m not sure where I’ll go walking once I’m back home. I’ve tried parks, and they’re nice when I remember to drive to them. Up and down the road can be a bit repetitive. Obviously, whenever I’m downtown I have plenty of walking to do. But I miss exploring. I miss wandering. I miss the feeling of endless discovery that comes when I step out my door, choose a direction, and head down the street.
It’s no wonder 10,000 steps go by so quickly.