How much time do you spend sitting each day? For most people, the majority of the day involves sitting:
- Sitting on your commute to work;
- Sitting at your desk;
- Sitting as you eat dinner with your family;
- Sitting as you relax after a long day at work in front of the TV.
Sitting is part of life, but it shouldn’t consume our entire life. Even a small amount of daily activity can make a dramatic difference in your health.
“Above all, do not lose your desire to walk,” said Søren Kierkegaard, the 19th-century Danish philosopher. “Every day I walk myself into a state of well-being and walk away from every illness.” More than 150 years later, millions of people are following in his footsteps. And for good reason too.
Researchers know that walking regularly can strengthen your bones, tone your muscles, and trim your waist, and it may reduce your risk of some cancers and other deadly diseases. The more you walk, the better your mood and the lower your risk of depression.
Why you need to get moving today
You have probably heard of the term “sedentary lifestyle”. Most of us are sedentary participants because of how our modern world functions. As described above, we have to sit for the majority of the day. It takes a great amount of effort to start moving and stay moving. But this effort could be one factor that transforms your health.
Changes to our society are not helping with the need for daily activity. Researchers have confirmed that just a few decades ago, in 1970, 2 out of 10 people participated in a job with light activity, like a desk job. By 2003, close to 6 out of 10 jobs were desk-bound jobs and most involve using a computer. Technology is a wonderful thing but it makes it easy for us to sit and observe. It takes motivation and commitment to unplug and start moving.
General consensus amongst health practitioners and researchers is that we need 150 minutes of exercise per week to offset this sedentary imbalance in our lifestyle. Regular activity can prevent and manage serious chronic health conditions including obesity, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes etc.
Sitting for 8 hours a day can shorten your life considerably compared to those who sit for less than 3 hours per day. For this reason, standing desks have become a popular fixture in many modern offices to promote activity. Prolonged, uninterrupted sitting leads to many health risks.
The message is clear: IT’S TIME TO GET MOVING!!
Where to begin:
One reason that it is difficult for many people to start daily activity is because they don’t know where to start. The good news is that daily exercise is easier that many fitness fanatics make it out to be.
JUST START WALKING: Set out on foot to run errands, exercise the dog, or get to work. Maybe you can try walking 10 minutes at a time, 3 times a day? One way to increase your activity is to be less efficient. Instead of piling things on the stairs so you can take everything up or down at once, take each item as you find it. After a trip to the supermarket, bring in fewer bags from the car and make more trips to the kitchen. At work, try and walk down the corridor to see a colleague, rather than calling him/her on the phone or sending an e-mail. All in all, you may walk for half an hour or more and cover a few miles a day. Although you’re not huffing and puffing, you are getting more exercise than most.
Next steps: Buy a basic pedometer or download an app on your smart phone (e.g.mapmywalk) and aim for 10,000 steps a day. Counting steps rather than minutes will encourage you to walk further, says Dixie Thompson, Ph.D., director of the Center for Physical Activity and Health at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. In one study, Thompson and her colleagues asked women to take a brisk walk for 30 minutes on most days or to accumulate 10,000 steps a day. Women who counted steps rather than minutes took an additional 2,000 steps a day, which adds up to almost a mile. Record your steps for one day, then add 1,000 more each week until you reach 10,000, suggests Thompson.
You can build up to 3-5 miles per day with a fast, purposeful stride. Pump your hands from belt to chest level with each stride. As your fitness increases, add wrist or ankle weights. This activity may seem simple but daily commitment is the challenge.
Boston University researchers confirm that walking just 6000 steps a day or 3 miles, can improve mobility in those with or at risk for knee osteoarthritis.