A Statistical Exercise

Laura and I visit Rome a couple times a year. Living here is very different from the suburbs of Washington, DC, where we have our day jobs. Among those differences is the amount we walk. This post is to put some numbers to that difference.

In short, for every mile I walk in DC, I walk 2.7 miles in Rome.  Here’s a graphical depiction of how much I walked before, during, and immediately after my most recent visit to Rome.

Miles I walked per day in Washington, DC and Rome

I’ve compared the statistics reported by my iPhone 6 and newly acquired Apple Watch during three periods: the 11 days I recently spent in Rome, my 8 days in DC immediately before that, and the 10 days in DC immediately after Rome*.

I had both the phone and watch on me every moment I could during these periods (which excludes sleeping, bathing, and swimming). The most I walked in a single day in Rome was 8.39 miles (13.5 km). Believe me, I felt that one the next day!

My other 8-plus mile day was when we visited the Vatican Museums. We took a cab back to the apartment after that, we were so tired.

In case you’re wondering, walking 2.7x the distance I cover in DC doesn’t mean I expend that many more calories.  Though I spend more of my typical day in Rome walking, I still spend most of my time not walking.  The Apple Watch referred to these as idle calories.

Total calories spent and miles walked on an average day in Rome and Washington, DC

I learned another reason when listening to the Get-Fit Guy’s podcast on the flight back to DC. Since human beings do so much walking, we learn to walk with a good degree of efficiency — better than say, running up a flight of stairs, which we don’t do as often. (I believe by efficiency he means the amount of calories spent per unit of work.)

My active and idle Calories per day in Washington, DC and Rome

Life for me in DC involves a job sitting at a desk and driving just about everywhere (the DC Metro doesn’t go near my office’s location).

Life in Rome, on the other hand, involves practically no driving. In Rome, I walk to the hardware store, the grocery store, the food market, the Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain, Piazza del Puopolo, the Pantheon, Piazza Navona, the Coliseum, Piazza Navona, the Vatican, etc., and more often that not, to dinner.

I realize I’m describing life in a major metropolitan city. So, this will be familiar to our readers who live in similar locales. I consider the value of this post, therefore, to be a notice to our guests and other visitors to the Eternal City: You will be doing a lot of walking here.

You will be walking more than I do, in fact. Notice the variation in my daily distance traveled. It’s much higher in Rome than in DC. For the statisticians out there, the sample standard deviation for my distance walked in Rome is 440% of that for DC. This is because some days I do less walking and spend more time at the apartment cleaning, meeting with service providers, and dealing with technicians.

But even given this variability, my point still stands. On the days when I walked the least in Rome, it was still roughly equal to my average mileage in DC. In other words, even when I was a relative sloth in Rome, I still walked at least as much as my average day in DC. Nevertheless, it’s reasonable to expect our guests to go out every single day while in Rome.

And this is why I always suggest our guests bring good walking shoes… and why we stock a First Aid kit with bandaids for walking related blisters.

* I excluded days I went to the gym as well as travel days since such days aren’t representative of my typical day in either city.