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Let’s Get Moving, Right Now

“Walking is the best possible exercise. Habituate yourself to walk very fast.”

Thomas Jefferson
Let’s Get Moving, Right Now

According to a newly released study Americans are even more sedentary this year than last year. How sedentary? Americans take on average 5,117 steps daily even though the American Heart Association recommends 10,000 steps per day.

Sitting is the new smoking!

According to a poll of nearly 6,300 people by the Institute for Medicine and Public Health, we sit for an average of 56 hours per week – staring at the computer screen, working at the desk, commuting in cars or trains, or watching TV. Prolonged sitting raises the risk for all the things that you most definitely don’t want: diabetes, high blood pressure, extra fat around your waist and higher LDL cholesterol. In fact, the study showed the risk of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer was increased in proportion to the amount of time spent sitting.

Why is sitting so bad?

What you may not appreciate is that inactive muscles are incapable of breaking down fat. The large muscles of the legs are key, as the legs require a huge amount of energy to move the body. When you stop moving your legs, fat breakdown as an energy source stops. This lower metabolism of dietary fat causes LDL (bad) cholesterol to rise and HDL (good) cholesterol to fall. Extra fat from this inactivity is deposited in the abdomen. In turn, fat in the abdominal cavity raises the risk for cancers. Prolonged sitting causes bone density to fall, often leading to osteoporosis. Additionally, postural muscles are weakened which causes slumping and back pain.

Physical Activity versus Exercise

All the movements a person does during the day – getting out of bed, opening the sticky window, driving to work, etc. – are physical activities. These everyday activities comprise the majority of daily caloric expenditure. Working out with a trainer or running for one hour is great but do not make up for the remaining 23 hours of inactivity! The solid advice of taking the stairs, parking at the end of the parking lot, and walking instead of taking a taxi are good ways to increase physical activity and burn more calories.

We need to find ways of adding more physical activity to our daily lives. If you sit at a desk, make a point of getting up every half hour. No one should sit longer than half an hour at work. Stand up. Walk around. Stretch. A recent study of office workers showed that the number of breaks taken from sitting had a positive impact on waist circumference.

Options for working: Get a headset for your phone so you can stand and move around while talking on the phone. If your home or office space permits it switch to a sit-stand desk; the desk is adjustable so it can be used both sitting and standing. ( Or how about a treadmill-desk? Use it on a slow speed while you are working on your computer, and then jack it up a notch to do a quick work-out. ( Believe me, I understand that you have important work to do but you can accomplish just as much without sitting. Give it a try!

Are you a numbers kind of person?

The new activity tracking gadgets are fun motivators. If you are a competitive person, form a challenge group – the person who takes the most steps wins! In my practice it has been fun to hear how people love these gadgets.

Pedometers are great. To program the pedometer, measure your stride length before beginning to set the pedometer. Aim for 10,000 steps per day. Consumer Reports rated the following as the best pedometers: Mio TRACE ACC-TEK, Omron GOSmart Pocket HJ-112, Sportline 345 and Sportline TraQ ANY-WEAR 370.

A step up from the pedometer is a newer device that allows you to monitor other aspects of health in addition to steps and distance. A word of caution to the non-techie: don’t get a device that will frustrate you by its complexity. You want a device that will be an extra motivator, not an annoyance!
  • Jawbone UP is a wristband that tracks movement and sleep – the app lets you track activity constantly, even in the shower. Water proof. Currently compatible with iPhone but Android app is on the way.
  • FitBit does everything. It tracks sleep, steps, stairs climbed, calories and mileage. You can keep track of your progress, too.
  • Nike + FuelBand tracks activity and exercise. It tracks steps taken and calories burned. It also tells the time of day. You set a daily goal and the band shows your progress through color change. Facebook and Twitter compatible.
The idea of sitting less and moving more should be intuitive. After all, when we were children we were always moving and had to be told to “sit down and be still”. Years of sitting in school may have made couch potatoes of many of us. But the damage done by sitting can be halted. All you need to do is get up out of your chair and move. You can even get yourself one of the new devices for extra motivation. Have fun with it!
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