STARTING FROM NOTHING?
You have probably read by now that a common recommendation is taking 10,000 steps per day. Most people walk about 3,000-5,000 each day, which doesn’t give us much health benefit. With our computer-working, tv-watching, long-commuting lifestyles, we sit way too much. It’s turning out to be just as hazardous for our health as smoking.
In fact, a new phrase is making the rounds these days “Sitting is the new smoking“. Prolonged sitting puts us at risk for heart muscle shrinkage and stiffening, increasing our risk for heart failure. So you sedentary non-smokers out there, you’re nowhere near in the clear from chronic disease and early death.
There is good news, though! According to the American Heart Association, people who have been inactive for a long time can reverse the damage by getting moving.
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WHAT’S THE FIRST STEP?
Take some, that’s what! You’re probably thinking “Yeah, right, I’ll just pick right up and start going 10,000 steps per day. Sure thing”. Well, I, for one, can’t do that either, so I’m right there with you. Even better news, actually, is that some of the greatest
benefits occur when you go from NOTHING to SOMETHING. Studies have shown that compared to people doing nothing, doing something, even if it’s less than the recommended daily amounts, can reduce your risk of death by anywhere from 14% to 20%.
So go move a little!
DON’T BE OVERWHELMED: IT’S NOT THAT BAD
Notice I didn’t just say “so go workout” or “go for a run”. Really, just get moving in some way. According to the Centers for Disease Control, you can get in as little as three 10-minute chunks per day to gain the long-term health benefits. If that’s more than you can do right now, that’s ok too.
Since the research says moving more, even if it’s less than recommended, is beneficial, let’s talk about how to just move more. You don’t need to plan an elaborate workout routine, just get your body going and see how you feel. At the start, don’t overdo it – you may feel fantastic at the time, but it might hit you the next day. Tailor your plan from here on based on how you feel after the fact. Be sure to figure out what you like to do, identify a small first goal once you know your baseline. Don’t know your baseline? First you need to estimate how much you’re moving as of now, or how many steps a day you’re getting typically. Keep reading and I’ll help you figure that out.
ACTION PLAN FOR TODAY
Let’s start with what you can do right now. Get up and walk around your house, apartment, dorm, wherever you live. Count how many steps it takes from you to go from point A to point B. Find a good little path or route you can count as your standard length. Remember how many steps that was. This way you can start to gage what your baseline is – you can begin to estimate how many steps per day you’re doing when you use that as your yardstick. (Unless you have an activity tracker, than you’re ahead of the game!)
In my house, I identified a loop that’s about 23 steps. I also have 14 stairs. If you really think hard about it, how many times do you walk up and down the stairs (if you have them) and how many times do you walk from, say, the couch to the fridge? How many steps is it from your bed to the kitchen? Start gathering up your own data so you can add it up and identify your starting point for this journey.
START GETTING MORE STEPS EACH DAY
Well, knowing your starting point needs to be for a reason, right? You’re here because you wanted to know something about how to get more steps per day or just be more active, so let’s start making a plan.
Let’s say today you figured out you’re getting about 2,000 steps per day. If you’ve been really sedentary, you may be getting less. Don’t sweat it – at least not yet ;), you will get there. Did you look around your surroundings and identify distances? Where can you add a lap or two?
I recently got a new Fitbit, and can start counting flights of stairs in my daily goals. I figure, it doesn’t take much time out of my day to do one extra trip up and down each time I use the stairs. If I’m not carrying loads of laundry or anything, it’s totally doable. For me, each flight adds 28 steps and gets my heart pumping a little harder.
I just had to reboot my computer modem, so while that was happening, I did a quick walk up the street (it’s beautiful out, so I’m taking advantage!) while I waited. When I put something in the microwave, I walk my little 23-step loop until I hear the *beep*.
Notice I haven’t talked about working out. I’m dealing with my own health problems and chronic foot pain, so this is my strategy for the time-being too. I can already tell my step count is increasing in the few days since I got back on track.
SET A GOAL
Tomorrow I’m shooting for five extra trips up the stairs and five-hundred more steps than today.
Today you can start by getting your baseline and moving a little. Tomorrow bump it up by about 10%. See how you feel and plan for the next day from that. Then, come back again to share what you discovered and learn how to keep building up!
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