It’s been said that sitting is the new smoking or sitting is the new cancer. Every year studies have shown the amount of time we spend in an idle state (sitting or standing) is increasing and thus causing many issues, both short term (back, joint and nerve pain) and long term (cancer, heart disease and stroke). It’s also been shown that people who are more active tend to be happier and live longer. And, that a daily 1 hour workout doesn’t offset the harm caused by spending the other 23 hours idle. This is what has led me to live a more active lifestyle.
Why track step count?
Desk jobs and entertainment (movies, TV, social media) are increasing in popularity and consuming more of our time. They’re don’t require any movement and are causing us to sit more. Because of this, our daily activity is decreasing significantly and we barely notice it. We barely stop to think about it. But, slap on a step tracker and you start to get a good idea of how little you’re moving throughout the day.
The general daily recommendation is to walk 10,000 steps per day but despite this, Americans are averaging between 3,000 and 4,000. This is fairly concerning. When we’re not moving, we’re likely sitting. And, when humans sit for an extended period of time (over an hour) without movement, our heart rate sinks. The blood in our body can pool and circulation slows. This is how the damage occurs. Our blood delivers vital oxygen and nutrients to our body. When this process slows down, we don’t receive the same amount of benefits. This can lead to a number of longer term problems. Studies have shown that those who sit more and walk less are more likely to get:
- Back Pain
- Heart Disease
- Varicose Veins
- Weight Gain
So, if you’d like to avoid all of these situations then you better get to stepping.
How many steps should I be taking?
Many groups recommend 10,000 steps per day. I find this to be an achievable and worth-while goal based on most of my past research. But, after watching Chasing Life by Dr. Sanjay Gupta and reviewing more recent studies, there may be further benefits of aiming for a higher goal. For example, Sanjay Gupta went to visit a village in Bolivia called Tsimane who’s people have some of the most active lifestyles, the lowest rate of heart disease, and some of the longest longevity in the world. This village is fairly poor and almost all of their work is labor intensive. This labor intensive work forces the average person in Tsimane to walk 17,000 steps per day! That’s 4x more than the average American. No wonder they’re so healthy. Sanjay Gupta also visited a number of other villages all around the world that are known to have the longest longevity. What I saw in each place he visited were people with very active lifestyles. People who easily average over 10,000 steps per day. And, people who are active throughout the day. Not just during a gym session.
That theme I saw from Sanjay Gupta’s findings, along with a number of studies recently published, have told me it’s equally important to not only get a minimum of 10,000 steps but to have them spread out throughout the day. To avoid sitting for periods over an hour. To break up your idle sessions with spurts of activity. The most effective goal may not be 10,000 steps per day, but mini goals of 700 steps per hour.
How can I increase my step count?
From small changes in your life like where you park to bigger changes like an exercise program, there are many ways to increase your step count. Below, are a few:
- Park farther away from work, stores, or other destinations (~250 steps)
- Go on a morning, lunch break or evening walk for 30 minutes (~3,000 steps)
- Incorporate 30 minutes of cardio into your day (~3,500 steps)
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator (~100 steps)
- Take a quick 5 minute walk around the office every hour (~500 steps per break)
- Walk in place while watching the news, shows or movies (~500 to ~6000 steps)
- Walk your dog in the morning and at night (~2,500 steps)
- Take phone calls or conference calls on the go (varies)
- Consider walking meetings at work (varies)
How I get 25,000 steps per day.
Let’s start this off by saying, I made one of the best investments of my life over a year ago. I bought a treadmill desk. My job which was 8 hours a day in a chair, has changed to 4 hours walking and 4 hours sitting. I alternate between walking and sitting every hour to spread out my activity. From this strategy alone, I average about 17,000 steps per day on the treadmill. But, besides this, I still do many other things that pile on the steps. Here’s my daily step schedule:
- 6:30am – 0 steps – I’ve just gotten out of bed.
- 8:00am – 500 steps – I’ve eaten breakfast, showered, changed and am heading to work.
- 8:30am – 600 steps – I’ve arrived at my desk for work and hop on the treadmill.
- 9:30am – 5,600 steps – Just completed my first treadmill desk session and back to sitting.
- 10:30am – 5,700 steps – Ate a snack, bathroom break walk and back to treadmilling.
- 11:30am – 10,700 steps – Second treadmill session complete and already hit the daily recommendation.
- 1:00pm – 10,800 steps – Sat another hour or so for work and ate lunch.
- 2:00pm – 15,800 steps – Burned off some lunch calories and fought the after meal sleepiness.
- 3:00pm – 16,000 steps – Completed my last daily sitting and working session.
- 4:00pm – 21,000 steps – Completed my last daily walking and working session.
- 5:00pm – 21,000 steps – Finished up with work and drove home.
- 6:00pm – 25,000 steps – Changed clothes and completed my 5k training run.
- 7:00pm – 25,100 steps – Completed my brain games, cooked and ate dinner.
- 8:00pm – 27,000 steps – Finished up my Beachbody or strength workout for the day.
- 10:30pm – 28,000 steps – Back in bed to end my day after late night work and relaxation.
From this, you can see that I aim for 20,000 steps on the treadmill, 6,000 steps through exercise, and another 2,000 steps scattered throughout with everyday activities. Not only do I exceed the 10,000 step recommendation, but I do a great job of spreading out my activity throughout the day.
If you’re interested in seeing this play out tomorrow, please follow the Instagram for hourly updates! I’ll be shooting to exceed my 25,000 step average.
As more jobs are being completed at a desk, and as we consume more entertainment each day, it’s important to remember that we’re meant to move. Our bodies need movement to facilitate circulation. Circulation delivers vital nutrients to our brain and body to keep us happy and healthy. So every hour, take a few minutes to get in some activity. Take a walk around the office. Walk in place while watching TV. Go for a morning walk. Start tracking and start stepping!
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