For years, the focus on health has been to get 30 minutes of exercise a day, five to seven days a week. However, no thought was given to how we spent the rest of our day. That is, until several very large studies conducted over the past few years revealed that all people (even exercise enthusiasts who work out one to two hours every day), have a high incidence of ill health and dying from all causes IF the rest of their day is sedentary. WHAT? You mean that my daily hour of morning sweat is not going to keep me from an earlier-than-average-age death? Preposterous! Yet the evidence is clear – no matter what we do for our daily exercise (or not), we must be more mobile throughout our day if we are going to enjoy good health.
The problem is less than 20 percent of jobs require physical movement or exertion, and we are spending more and more time at the office. Face it, in the legal profession, unless you are truly chasing ambulances, you sit almost all day. In fact, some reports show that 23 out of 24 hours of the average working adult’s day is spent either sitting down or lying down. We sit to eat, drive, work, watch TV, talk, order food from our cars, email and surf the Web. We lie down to sleep, nap, watch TV, work on the computer and de-stress. Since 1965, sedentary time outside of work has increased by 40 percent. THINK about THAT! Do you recall you or your parents lifting the garage door to drive the car in; cutting your own grass; riding your bikes or walking to sports practice, school, neighbors’ and friends’ homes, or the store?
Of course, we all know that a sedentary lifestyle leads to heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, muscle stiffness, poor balance, depression, anxiety, insomnia, high blood pressure, lung disease, weight gain, lethargy, and back, neck and hip pain. But we are largely (pun intended) unaware that exercise alone will not eliminate the health risks associated with too much sitting. We must get off our rear ends! It’s plain and simple, yet so hard to do in our hectic professional and personal lives.
The solution: Take at least 10,000 steps a day. Studies have shown over and over again that taking 10,000 steps a day will provide modest weight loss, improved glucose intolerance, decreased BMI, decreased blood pressure, decreased stress, increased productivity, increased state of mind/happiness, increased muscle tone and better sleep. In fact, in one small study of great significance, researchers studied a group of men who typically walk 10,000 steps a day and asked them to reduce their steps to only 1,350 steps each day. They took elevators instead of stairs, drove to work and lunch instead of walking – all the stuff we typically do in our daily lives, right? Well, after just two measly weeks, they found the men’s bodies had become worse at metabolizing sugars and fats, and their distribution of body fat began to migrate toward their midsection – after just two weeks! It makes you wonder what’s going on inside your body, doesn’t it?
The good news: To reap the health benefits of taking 10,000 steps a day, the walking does not have to be prolonged or vigorous as long as it’s sprinkled throughout your day and consistent. Oh, but you say there is no time in your day to be active and walk? Yes, there is. Get creative, change your habits and think outside the box you’ve stuffed yourself into for too long. Did you know that by replacing sedentary TV time with active time, you could lose 50 pounds a year? Imagine the positive impact on your health and happiness!
How to begin? Just move and be consistent! It takes 21 days to establish a habit. Banish elevators, escalators and people movers from your life; walk to lunch; park further out every time you park your car; march in place when watching TV during commercials; take a quick walk around the block before taking your morning shower; pace while talking on the phone; schedule walking meetings; take a 15 minute catch-up walk with your partner after work; walk with your children and listen to their music with them; listen to a book on tape while walking; take part in an active volunteer project; cut your own grass; wash dishes by hand with the entire family. At work, enlist the help of your most active employees or co-workers to start a 10,000 steps a day contest – collectively see how far you and your co-workers can walk over the next three months. If you walk 10,000 steps a day (a 4.7 mile-average), you will have walked 1,716 miles in a year. In essence, you will have single-handedly walked to San Diego, Calif. What a feat, or is that feet? This work contest will engage everyone in a friendly competitive game that will enliven the office, build camaraderie and produce healthier employees – all for free!
So what are you waiting for? Athletes and non-athletes alike, track your steps. If you have a smart phone, which of course you do, download one of the free pedometer apps, buy a $15 pedometer at the drug stores or invest in a high-tech pedometer like the FitBit, Nike Fuel Band, or UP Band. No matter where you go, every step you take will lead you in the right direction. I’d enjoy hearing from you about where your steps lead you. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to receive a 10,000 steps log sheet or data on converting other activities to number of steps.•
Sharon McGoff is a graduate of Indiana University Maurer School of Law, a certified personal trainer and health fitness specialist with the American College of Sports Medicine, and a certified life and wellness coach with WellCoaches, Inc. She welcomes your questions or comments at Smcgoff@comcast.net. The opinions expressed are those of the author.