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Getting Healthier 10,000 Steps at a Time

I’ve been writing about multiple sclerosis and chronic health topics every week for over 8 years. There is very little chance that I’m in denial regarding the state of my health or disability. Only rarely have I overestimated my ability to do something.

I’m fortunate to be a person living with MS who responds well to treatment and has even experienced an unexpected improvement of physical function after changing disease-modifying therapy 6 years ago.

Last year when my doctor recommended that I strive to walk 10,000 steps every day, I was dubious. But I was also not sure how many steps I might be getting on a routine basis because I wasn’t measuring them. When I got a Fitbit, I was excited to be able to see just how much I was moving (or not) around the house on a normal day.

What I quickly discovered was that during a typical day, I really only walk about 3,000 steps while working at home. On days that I’m more active, I reach 5,000 steps; and if I go out and about, I may reach 7,000 steps. I never get close to the recommended 10,000 steps on a normal day.

Earlier in the summer, Rob and I were in Chicago for a conference. We took a brief walk on Saturday afternoon in the downtown area to get in some exercise after a long day of sitting in meetings. Later in the evening we walked down to the Navy Pier area to watch fireworks over the water.

After returning to the hotel, I checked my Fitbit and noticed that I had reached about 9,100 steps. I was so excited. “Rob, we have to go back out. I might actually be able to get in 10,000 steps if we walk up and down the block one more time. Come on, let’s go!”

Not long thereafter I noticed that the step counter on my Fitbit was no longer going up. It had stopped around 9,200 steps. Hey, what’s up? I thought. Turns out that my device was still on East Coast time while the app was on Central time. Bummer, I wasn’t going to get the digital “badge” proving that I had finally achieved 10,000 steps. I felt cheated.

Earlier this month, Rob and I took an evening walk. We didn’t have a specific goal in mind as to how far we might go or where. We just closed the front door behind us and starting walking. After reaching a nearby elementary school, we kept going. Once we got to one of the main streets through our small community, we decided to turn on the road and head to the Starbucks to get a drink after which we took a different path home.

The walk was almost 3 miles roundtrip and I finally reached 10,000 steps! Whoo hoo, the first time since I had started using the Fitbit almost 16 months prior I had walked as much as is recommended daily for a healthy individual. Going modest distances is not the challenge that it once was and some people might not think me disabled at all.

I am so very thankful to be doing so well, although I do wish to be able to do even more. But at least I do know that if I push really hard (and do basically nothing the following day), I can walk 10,000 steps in a day. Maybe I’ll try to work up to doing just that at least once a month in the next year. Having lost 55 pounds since last November, I feel more confident that I really can achieve goals once I’ve made up my mind to do so. MS be damned; there’s no denying I’m getting healthier each year.

Lisa Emrich | Follow me on Facebook | Follow me on Twitter | Follow me on Pinterest

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


    4 years ago

    Lisa I think you have one of the keys to keeping this disease at bay. Walking as much as possible and focused exercise such as physical therapy, Pilates, and yoga. I also try to exercise the mind as much as possible with crossword puzzles, sudoku, and playing scrabble with the family. Keep fighting back and don’t let this disease rollover you!

  • Lisa Emrich moderator author
    4 years ago

    Hi Fightback,

    Thank you. I’ve also found that if I’ve been only doing one particular activity for awhile (days/weeks), I need to switch it up more frequently to maximize the benefit. Each activity seems to support the benefit of the others.

    I also enjoy mental puzzles. There is a monster sudoku puzzle (5 overlapping sudoku puzzles in 1) that appears in the Sunday comics. I’ve usually got at least one of those in my purse at all times to work on when there’s time.


  • Amit
    4 years ago

    Howsoever much I would love to walk 10000 steps a day, I find it very difficult to do so. I have difficulty walking due to progressive MS and barely walk 1000 steps a day. Would love to hear sincere tips and advice on how I can walk more, much more than I presently do.

  • Lisa Emrich moderator author
    4 years ago

    Hi Amit,
    It certainly is difficult to walk 10,000 steps a day. Although you may not be able to walk much more than 1,000 steps each day, there are probably ways that you could get more physical activity into your day.

    Things like lifting your leg off of the ground (from the hip) may help strengthen your hip muscles which are needed for walking. Going from a seated position and standing (if possible) may help to strengthen your glutes which are also needed for walking.

    I’ve found that on days that I’m working a lot on the computer and am not getting up to move around as much, I have to make a concerted effort to remember to get out and walk around every hour at a minimum. Finding small ways to move around more may help you to work toward a goal of walking more.

    Best regards,

  • Betty
    4 years ago

    Prior to beginning diagnosed with MS, I had had to have extended PT for a severe ankle, fibula, and tibia injured which required reconstuctive ankle surgery, reattaching the ankle to the leg, and screws in my fibula. The perseverance I learned during that time has been critical when my MS has limited me in some way. I find my Fitbit has been helpful. I also have used aquatic exercises, my wii, exercise bands, and weights,as well as an assortment of other gadgets. My leg/ankle experience taught me inprovement comes after just 1 more rep at a time. As an adult who probably has HAHD, variety is critical. I’ve found having a plethora of activities working of the same skill prevents boredom and exercise burnout. I’m currently fighting back from a flare that has affected my balance and coordination. So far, I’ve been surprisingly successful.

  • Lisa Emrich moderator author
    4 years ago

    Excellent comments and recommendations. Thank you for sharing. This summer I dusted off the wii and started using it to get more activity in. It’s fun, but I think that I most enjoyed discovering the feature where you can do stepping while watching TV and the hand controller encourages you to keep going. The steady routine of it is somewhat relaxing.

    Hope you’ve continued to get better from this relapse. Good luck.

  • Kim Dolce moderator
    4 years ago

    That’s so great, Lisa, kudos to you for the weight loss and the walking routine. Forming new health habits is so hard. I haven’t yet gotten into the routine of daily exercise, but you’ve inspired me to try again. Congratulations on winning a long hard battle.


  • Lisa Emrich moderator author
    4 years ago

    Thanks so much, Kim!

    There have definitely been times during the past year where I lost focus somewhat and progress stalled. You are absolutely correct about it being difficult to form new habits. I still haven’t reached a point where walking or riding the exercise bike make me feel completely awesome and thus I want to do it all the time. But I do feel much better overall then I did a year ago.

    I’m hoping that if I can keep it up, I’ll surprise myself with how much better things feel next summer. At a minimum, I’m going to need a new wardrobe. 🙂


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