n=1: The Self Experiment tries counting steps for health

pedometer1By now, everyone has probably heard that we should be walking 10,000 steps a day to maintain weight and health.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time incorporating activity into my everyday life, especially since having my third child in December. I’ve decided that for my next self-experiment, I will try to walk 10,000 steps a day for the next 30 days.

Unlike the “green monster” smoothie self-experiment, I’m going about this one a bit more scientifically. To start out, I measured three days of steps without conscientious walking:

Day 1: 5,024 (we had to buy the kids’ school supplies, so wandered around Office Max foreverrrr)

Day 2: 983 (dismal; I don’t think I got up from my desk chair to do anything)

Day 3: 3,245

So, without trying, I average less than 4,000 steps a day. According to this chart, I’m sedentary. Ugh.

So, here are the rules I’ve established for this self-experiment:

1. I will wear the pedometer all the time (except when bathing and sleeping). There is one other exception (see no. 4). That way, every step (every trip to the rest room, every time I go to the fridge for a snack) counts.
2. I am not doing any walking in place. Only “real” walking.
3. I have to do 10,000 steps before going to sleep each night.
4. I take off the pedometer when I work out. I really want to measure steps taken, not overall activity.

What I’m trying to discover:

— How convenient/inconvenient is walking 10,000 steps daily?
— What health benefits do I notice?
— 10,000 steps is supposed to be for maintaining current weight. How accurate is that?
— If you already maintain a weight, can you actually lose weight just by walking?
— Ultimately, is this sustainable?

I’m using my iPod Nano’s pedometer. If you want to join me, you can use an app or get a cheap digital pedometer from a sports equipment store. Wish me luck and let me know how you’re doing! Share your progress with me on Twitter or Facebook, or in the comments section.

About the Self Experiment: In scientific research, n=1 refers to a trial where there is only one test subject. Across the world, many people have taken this idea and applied it to running behavioral experiments on themselves. You might also see it listed as self-tracking or self-quantification (http://quantifiedself.com). Whatever the name, it’s about tracking your behaviors over time and seeing what happens when you make changes.


Meredith Desha Enos is a Honolulu-based writer, mother, wife, and putterer. She enjoys gardening, aquaponics, and being active with her family. Meredith is into new and great ideas and adventures, and she works in online education at Kamehameha Schools. You probably know her from somewhere, or she’s friends with your cousin.

One comment

  • When I was using a FitBit last year,I could rarely get to 10,000 steps on a workday. I set myself a goal of 10k a day and found that I had to take walks at work, and even then I’d get home and still only be at 6k or 7k. Would require a night time walk to hit the goal.

    Great goal and look forward to seeing how it works out for you!


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