For everyone Ahead by a country mile

  • By A.J. Betts
  • This article was published more than 8 months ago.
  • 31 Jul 2023

It’s said that a ‘moderately active’ human will walk four to five times around the Earth during their lifetime. Not all at once, mind you, and not in a straight line, as that would be challenging due to the water covering 71% of the Earth’s surface. But, if you’re one of these so-called moderately active people who takes 7,500 steps per day, using the ‘average’ stride over the ‘average’ lifespan of 83 years (subtracting a few years for crawling and/or hobbling), you’ll be walking approximately 165,000 kilometres, which is just over four times the distance of the equator.

Which is a lot. 

But if you’re a teacher, you better get your passport renewed because you’ll be going an extra couple of rounds. During term time, most teachers go above and beyond in every aspect of their job – and they’ve got the step count to prove it.

Those who teach in different classrooms in far-flung locations on campus can easily rack up 500 steps between lessons. Yard duty? Add another thousand. Going to the photocopier? Two hundred for a return trip. Having to return to the photocopier five times until it’s finally available? One thousand. Then there are trips to the canteen and the office. Coaching a sport? The sky’s the limit. Toilet visits? Well, now that’s getting personal. 

Teachers go above and beyond in every aspect of their job – and they’ve got the step count to prove it.

Even the steps within the classroom add up, and I’m not just talking about the striding left to right along the whiteboard. There’s all those looping arcs and serpentine configurations as we meander, arms-behind-backs, to peer over shoulders. If our classroom movements were to be tracked, they’d resemble mysterious crop circles etched into the carpet.

I sense that – for some of you – reading this is triggering your competitive spirit. Physical Education teachers: I see you. Yes, your step count would surely surpass that of the other departments. And in the online forums about this topic (of which there are surprisingly many) it’s often the PE teachers who come out on top, exceeding 15,000 steps most days. One guy says he clocks over 30,000 before lunchtime, but authors of Reddit threads are not known for their accountability, or humility.

Other practical subjects also rate highly: Drama, Tech, Art, Science. In fact, kindergarten teachers notch up a noteworthy total. On the whole, most teachers boast of reaching 6,000 to 8,000 during school hours, and a total of 13,000 to 15,000 over the course of the whole day.

But before you get too smug and self-congratulatory, I should inform you that teachers are not the most prolific professional walkers. Various studies (admittedly, most lacking in scientific rigour – and often sponsored by a shoe company) rate teachers somewhere in the middle of the Top Ten Best Walkers Awards. In first place are wait staff, followed by nurses and hospital workers, retail workers, warehouse workers and farmers. Occupations below us include tradies, hairdressers, and stay-at-home parents. Down the bottom of the list is where you’ll find the office workers.

If you, like me, have a smartwatch that judges you for failing to reach the elusive goal of ten thousand steps per day, fear not. Ten thousand was never an objective set by medical professionals, but an arbitrary figure resulting from a branding campaign by a Japanese company in 1964. Their new pedometer – the world’s first – was called manpo-kei, which translates as “10,000-step-meter”. The campaign was a success, the number stuck, and in recent years (as Fitbit sales soared) it became lore. But, according to scientists, 7,000 is a more advisable milestone for achieving health benefits.

As a country, Australia gets a C when it comes to walking. According to a 2017 study published in Nature, we rank behind most Asian and European countries, with an average of 4,941, but at least we beat the US who came in with 4,774.

So, educators, give yourselves a pat on the back, and treat yourselves to a foot bath – you’ve earned it. You’re ahead of the curve when it comes to most professions, and better than most Australians to boot.

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