Surely enough, you’ve probably seen those videos or articles titled “I Tried XXX’s Diet/Workout Routine For a Week” or “I Tried The XXX Challenge…Here’s What Happened” at least every other time, if not every time, you surf the Internet. These experiments are everywhere, and it’s both a good and bad trend. On one hand, you get some insight on what is sustainable and enjoyable in terms of health and fitness. On the other hand, you also feel more enticed to follow a carbon copy plan that is meant for someone else, and not you as a unique individual. Either way, you learn something, and that is the main purpose of these types of publications.
It makes sense that I do a fitness challenge for a week and share the results…because this experiment was totally coincidental at first and became more structured once the week reached its end. But anyways, as you would know from the title, I did indeed walk more than 20,000 steps every single day for a week. To be honest, I still walk this much almost every day on average, but we’ll get into why later. From this little pursuit, I experienced some very interesting results, some positive, some negative, but all worthy of noting.
Below I have shared each screenshot of my iPhone’s step tracker on the Health app. The number of miles, steps, and floors climbed are indicated. Under each screenshot is a description of my day and how I managed to suffice or even exceed my 20K step goal.
***Just as a quick disclaimer, this post does not serve as an alternative for medical advice. Please make sure to consult a professional if you are uncertain about taking on a challenge like this.
- First day of the challenge, off to a pretty strong start! I ended up walking 9.3 miles in total with a final quantity of over 23,000 steps. This day, I was able to rake in 10,000 extra steps by walking to the grocery store to buy a few last-minute fridge and pantry items, which I do around three times a week.
- Given that this was the day after the Central Coast VegFest, my appetite was almost non-existent because my body was still running on the food from that day. I was both surprised and unphased by this, given that I still walked a decent amount to burn off all the stored energy from the crazy amount of sugar and chocolate I enjoyed that day!
- Okay, not as much as Sunday, but still a pretty good amount of steps because I did exceed 20,000. Working as a cash register at the dining complex on campus is sedentary, since all I do is stand in one booth. However, walking to and from the gym in the morning, as well as walking to work and my evening class, were the main mechanisms of sufficing the step count. It figured that I wouldn’t be walking as much today, but I still did the best I could to walk whenever I got the chance.
- Appetite basically standardized itself to usual. Nothing really changed this day, no surprise, since my body finally fully recovered from the VegFest cheat day!
- Again, just a typical day of walking to classes all around campus, but I did choose to take the longer route to the gym in the morning, which helped me exceed 20K once again. Instead of a typical 2500 steps to the gym from my apartment building, it took me around 4000-4500 steps, more or less since I don’t quite remember. After my workout, I took a slightly shorter route, but sufficed at least 11,000 steps by 11 A.M. (funny, huh? 11K steps at 11 A.M.!).
- If my appetite was at a level 1 on Sunday, it excelled to a level 138 on Tuesday. I was FREAKING STARVING. Though I’m not usually hungry in the morning, I basically felt like eating an entire box of cereal or a whole loaf of bread right before my workout–I mean, I didn’t actually do that because…let’s be practical, guys. Eventually, my hunger levels regulated themselves, especially while I stayed hydrated with lots of water and tea. I’m pretty certain the higher levels of physical activity finally caught up to my hunger hormones and affected them in some way.
- Wowwie mama, 10.7 miles?! Walking to the gym, three different offices, the grocery store off-campus, and to all my classes and back to my apartment afterwards gets you far. Man oh man, was I exhausted once I hopped into bed. I basically passed out the minute my head made contact with the pillow.
- Though not as dramatic as what I felt on Tuesday, my appetite did experience a spike. I ended up consuming my meal-prepped lunch but had some peanut butter as a little sweet treat. I did end up enjoying some extra peanut butter with my Lakanto chocolate bar in the evening as well!
- Rest day today and a busy class schedule to pair it with! I woke up later than anticipated due to a late study session, so I decided to walk around the campus after my first lecture to catch up on my progress.
- Because it was a rest day today, I naturally didn’t eat as much as usual. Appetite was pretty standard for how it usually works.
- Yay, no classes today! Similarly to Monday, I took the longer way to the gym and back, as well as strolling to the grocery store and nail salon to wax my eyebrows. In addition, I walked around downtown and a little bit around Morro Bay, but not too much since it got extremely cold and windy.
- Once again, nothing too drastic with my appetite, but I would like to share my lunch that I enjoyed with my boyfriend and his parents while visiting downtown SLO! My meal consisted of four tofu and veggie spring rolls with peanut sauce and some kind of sweet chili sauce. So light but fresh and satisfying!
- Broke a record with over 28,000 steps and 12 miles! Woot woot! Basically took the same long route to and from the gym, then to the local grocery store for some last-minute items, and I also walked to the laundromat in the school’s apartment to clean my clothes.
- Know what to fuel for 12 miles and more than two hours of exercise (eh, I got carried away)? Roughly +3,500 calories worth of protein, fats, and carbs. LOTS and LOTS of carbs. No complaining about that! Even after consuming more than four servings of the Cascadian Farm organic cinnamon crunch cereal for breakfast, I still felt like eating more. Aside from that, the nice cream was very satisfying since I also had a protein shake, peanut butter (unpictured), berries, and a whole plain Lakanto chocolate bar to pair with it, plus I felt very full from my Gardein mandarin nuggets, perfectly cooked sweet potato fries (recipe here!), a Munk Pack oatmeal raisin cookie, and the rest of the Cascadian Farms cereal. Such a yummy day of eating!
PROS OF THE CHALLENGE
All in all, I benefited quite a lot from this little steps endeavor! But I’ve listed them all below and broken them down into their individual descriptions for you to read rather than having me ramble about them in one giant paragraph. These are just the personal pros that I have experienced in my challenge, and this does not mean that you will experience them yourself.
- Faster warm-ups and cool-downs. Walking is my main form of warming up and cooling down after a workout, and the extra time in walking definitely did not hurt in terms of optimizing my performance in the gym. I felt like I had more stamina in my workouts and saw improvements in energy and consistent training. Sure, it’s hard to prove if your body has actually recovered, but I found that I felt much better after my walks from the gym to my apartment than usual.
- Lower levels of body fat, specifically in the abdomen. Even though I can only measure my body fat with my Body Analyzer scale and not with more professional and accurate methods of body fat evaluation, the measured body fat percentage stayed relatively leaner than usual since walking 20,000 steps or more. I did notice a difference in my physical body composition as well–I looked a lot more toned and less puffy, and my abs were generally very flat throughout the day. This is probably due to an increase in non-exercise activity thermogenesis (“NEAT”) in which I was most likely burning more calories through non-exercise physical movement through walking.
- WAY less bloating. Oh boy, this was probably the most drastic change I’ve seen in my body with this challenge! Even after a massive bowl of nice cream, walking for half an hour to forty-five minutes or so alleviated the bloating immensely! Walking more definitely stimulated my blood circulation and digestion more frequently, so gases and food molecules were moving more often and more quickly.
- Better sleep. Personally, I am an incredibly light sleeper who often wakes up in the middle of the night to use the restroom and to check my alarm early in the morning to see how much time I have to sleep before climbing out of bed. However, for some strange reason, I rarely found myself waking up at who-knows-when to use the bathroom! I can probably attest to more efficient physiological processes, but it was great experiencing less disturbances in my (very very very much needed) slumbers.
- Improved breathing. Sounds weird, but staying a little more active often actually helped me breathe more frequently, deeply, and consistently. I’ve noticed that my breathing while sitting down is often very faint and fast-paced, which doesn’t really circulate oxygen very efficiently, but with walking, I focus much more on breathing mindfully since I’m not working on another task at hand. Of course, I still try to breathe optimally regardless, but it feels more natural while walking.
- Stronger connection to nature. I was outside way more than usual, so I was present around nature more often as well. The sky, the trees, the clouds, the fresh air, the breeze, and everything else nature had to offer looked and felt incredible. I found myself looking less at my phone and more at my surroundings, and my appreciation for the natural world grew even more. I already love nature as it is, but taking it in every single day really brings a lot of subconscious gratitude and peace.
- A sense of therapy. Walking serves as a stress relief for me, which is why I tend to pace around when I feel distressed. The act of releasing any negative energy or tension through walking definitely helps calm me down, even exhaust me so I don’t have to think about whatever is bothering me at the moment. Being outside is even better since being around nature has proven beneficial in tranquilizing the mind and spirit.
CONS OF THE CHALLENGE
Despite discovering a wide array of benefits with this challenge, I also did encounter some not-so-pleasant sensations along the way. Again, I’ve broken them all down in a list with their own detailed descriptions of my personal experiences.
- I was tired. All. The. Time. Lots of walking has scientifically been proven to boost energy and increase overall physiological efficiency, but it also requires energy. For me, take 20,000 steps a day, add in 60-90 minutes of exercise, and you’ve got a pretty physically taxing day. Hence, I felt exhausted at least every other day, if not every day, whether it be through sleepiness or soreness in my legs. Most of the time, I would pass out by the time I crawled into bed, and surprisingly, I’d sleep through the entire night! Completing other basic tasks such as washing the dishes, taking a shower, using the bathroom, standing up from a chair, and even talking to my friends, which requires brain power and conducting natural hand motions!
- Increased thirst. Okay, so this may not be entirely bad and all, but honestly, sometimes having to go and fill up more and more cups of tea or water is such an inconvenience. Having an incredibly crazy schedule, I am constantly working (explains why I’ve been behind on posting this month–whoopsies!) and devoting even just two minutes of extra time to complete an assignment makes a difference. Unfortunately, I found myself using up those two extra minutes for hydration. It may sound petty, but when you’re living on a limited budget of time, you’ll completely understand.
- Increased capacity to eat. While my hunger and appetite did not increase super drastically, I did find that I wasn’t quite satisfied with my meals, at least in cognitive terms. By cognitively, I mean that I had always thought that I could still fit more food into my stomach. On a normal day, I would have felt stuffed after consuming six to seven bananas in the form of nice cream, but on Saturday, after walking the last third or quarter of my step quantity, I was completely set for dinner. This is definitely due to the food moving through my body more efficiently, so I digested everything a lot more quickly.
- Less time for other things. Strolling on the longer paths and roads for my standard destinations ate away at my clock ravenously. I found myself scrambling to complete all of my tasks in a shorter time window, such as studying, exercising, eating, grocery shopping, and more. It was challenging to even find time to talk to my friends before going about my day because I needed the time to complete my steps. With less time to go about my school work, I felt extremely overwhelmed and rushed with working. At the very least, I can always say that I improved my efficiency with finishing assignments on time.
Lack of basic walking or even just low-intensity physical activity remains a problem in a great portion of our population, who often work in sedentary jobs or live in settings that are discouraging for walking around for transport (*cough* WHERE I LIVE IN LOS ANGELES *cough*). Even in a college setting, students sit in desks for hours very frequently and are still pretty sedentary in their everyday lives, though they generally do walk at least one or two miles on average, depending on their schedules. To summarize, I am glad and grateful that I successfully completed this challenge because I proved that walking 20,000 or more steps a day can be done.
This isn’t to say that walking 8-12 miles a day doesn’t have its setbacks. It’s not sustainable to devote so much time and energy into such a basic physical activity, let alone necessary. I already exercise more than plenty, so walking for a very considerable amount of miles is even more demanding. You lose a lot of stamina and time that can be used elsewhere, especially in bettering your personal life. Even my friends were amazed by how much I walked every single day, and found it intriguing to see me walk around the apartment room while completing simple tasks (i.e. eating, calling on my phone, putting on my jackets, etc.).
Main takeaways: walking is super important and should be integrated into your everyday routine. Definitely make an effort to walk whenever you can, whether it be walking around your workroom, parking your car farther away from your designated destination, or taking a friend out for a nature walk while you chat. But like anything else, walking can be done in excess. To most people, walking 8-12 miles in a city setting is pretty excessive, especially for someone like me who exercises on a regular basis. On average, I prefer around 16,000-22,000 steps a day for a more comfortable step range, which I believe is still pretty hefty in comparison to most averages. Most of the time, I generally suffice 20,000 steps, but sometimes I only reach 18,000 and other times I surpass 20,000. It really depends on how busy I am, how much energy I have, and how stressed I feel. If I were to eat a lot, then yes, I would aim to walk around the 25,000-28,000+ range that day, just so I can feel better. But, I don’t obsess over the number.
Would I recommend this challenge? Yes, but be wary of how you’ll function along the way. Plan ahead and be prepared to experience some changes if you walk significantly less than 20,000 steps a day. I think that 10,000 steps is a perfect daily standard for people who want to be more active, but start somewhere below and incrementally add in steps if you don’t walk a lot. Just like anything else, incorporating changes into your routine has to be enjoyable, sustainable, and reasonable. The best way to create a healthy habit is to take it day by day, one step at a time.
And yes, that pun was intended. 😉
For more information that may answer some questions about the challenge (weight loss, number of miles, etc.), please visit my latest follow-up on the 20K step challenge. (link embedded)
How many steps do you walk a day on average? Would you attempt this challenge, and if so, what would your strategy be?