Benefits of Bustling?

Happy National Walking Month!

I’m a big advocate of walking. Walking to work if you can, or to the bus stop or train station if you can’t. Walking to the shops. Walking your kids to school. Walking around your neighbourhood. Walking in the park.

As a mother of young children, I walk constantly, although my leisure walking ambitions are reduced to accommodate little legs.

As a transport planner, I am well aware of the plethora of benefits of taking the ten-toe express. Instead of detailing them here, however, may I direct you to the Living Streets website: http://www.livingstreets.org.uk/. The charity organise National Walking Month and may inspire you to take part in Walk to Work or Walk to School Weeks.

As a blogger, I want to explore a nagging question. The fact that walking is beneficial to your health is undisputed, but how much is needed to gain those benefits is less clear. Do you have to ‘walk briskly’ for at least ten minutes in one go for it to count towards your 150 minutes of recommended exercise a week? Or does every step count?

One frequently bandied about suggestion is to walk 10,000 steps a day. That’s about 5 miles.

I have a Fitbit and I easily clock my 10,000 steps on days when I walk my daughter to and from pre-school and maybe have a pop to the park or shops as well. But even then, each period of continuous walking is often less than 10 minutes. And what about the couple thousand steps or more taken bustling around the house?

Let me give you an example of a typical mealtime:

I walk two or three steps across the kitchen from the refrigerator to the food cupboards. A couple steps to the sink, then a few more to the microwave or toaster or hob if something needs heating. Back and forth, back and forth… lunch is almost ready.

Then my daughter calls that her baby brother is about to pull on a wire or tear her library books, so a quick run to the living room to remove the temptation or him to another part of the room. Back to the kitchen to put the last bits on plates, but then the little one is climbing my leg. I pick him up, but now I need to take twice as many trips between kitchen counter and table because I only have one hand free. If I put him in his high chair before lunch is ready to be put in his mouth, he is likely to scream.

During lunch, I need to grab a cloth to wipe up a spill or pour another cup of water or I’ve forgotten something or there’s a Skype ring on the computer as my mother calls to say hello. I’m up and down.

As we finish, I race to put things in the dishwasher. It’s safer to have the machine closed before my son’s roaming free on the floor.

Then the kids are back in the living room, but I stay in the kitchen to finish tidying up. I hear a crash when my son crawls into the downstairs loo and knocks over the mop. I stand it back up, remove the child from the room and close the door.

I sniff and run my son upstairs for a nappy change. My daughter wants the loo and the door is stuck. I run down, open the door for her, run up, change the nappy, wash my hands, run back downstairs, put the baby down and make sure the big girl has wiped properly and washes her hands.

After a quick check that the tidying up is finished, we go back into the living room or up to my daughter’s room to play.

I have taken at least 500 steps in less than an hour. I have been far from sedentary. My heart rate has even gone up – although perhaps more from rushing to remove the toilet brush from my son’s grasp before he puts it in his mouth. Okay, I’d probably take 500 steps in 5 minutes if I was ‘walking briskly’, but does that mean there are no health benefits from bustling? Can I not make a case for celebrating National Walking Month even on rainy weekend days when I do not leave my home? After all, I’m still walking!

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