The U.S. Surgeon General’s recommends you take at least 10,000 steps a day. Most people have no idea how many steps they’ve taken over the course of a day. The majority of people take just 1,000 to 3,000 steps. I’ve monitored the number of steps taken in the average Fitness Fusion class at 4,000-5,700 in just the first ½ hour. That’s before we start our strength, stretch & serenity portion of class! How’s that for kicking up your daily total?! The even better news is every movement counts; whether it’s taking the dog for a walk or getting up to answer the phone. Getting closer to 10,000 steps a day as a goal is one of the easiest ways to improve your health. Of course, some activities such as lifting weights or yoga count as activity & movement, but don’t necessarily reflect as many “steps” - be sure you keep that in mind when evaluating overall activity. If you are short maybe 1,000 steps, but participated in core strengthening, weight lifting or the like – these higher intensity activities can stand in for some of your “steps” in a balanced workout program. Some tracking devices allow you to input these important “movements” to take them into account in overall daily “activity.”
In other newsletters/blog posts, we covered that “Sitting is the New Smoking” with dangerous side effects. In a study in the journal Diabetes Care, for example, researchers found that when a group of overweight volunteers remained stationary for seven hours, blood sugar spiked and insulin levels became erratic, but participants who took a break from sitting to stand, walk or jog for two minutes each hour enjoyed stable blood sugar levels, which researchers suggest could lower their risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Studies show that people who take at least 10,000 steps a day enjoy tons of health benefits: reducing cancer and heart disease risk; engaging your muscles, improving tone, slowing arthritis, burning calories, boosting energy levels, improving circulation, improving mental clarity/connectivity of brain circuits, building bone density, & keeping joints limber.
The easiest way to figure out how many steps you are taking over the course of a day is to purchase any type of pedometer device or get a free “app” if you have a smart phone. Begin to use it and see what your total is after a typical day. This will be your starting point. Once you know how many steps you take in an average day, you can assess how much more active you need to be.
There are also a growing number of “movement trackers” on the market. These devices not only track the number of steps you take but also the flights of stairs you’ve climbed, the total calories you’ve burned and some even track amount and quality of sleep. A few examples include Fitbit, Nike FuelBand and UP by Jawbone.
In a study by researchers at Stanford University, people who tracked their steps increased their average number of steps by 27%, or about a mile more each day. Another mile a day just from increased awareness of the number of steps they took! That extra mile also burns an extra 110 calories per day or 11 pounds of fat over the course of a year! Over the course of 18 weeks, study subjects also lost a few pounds on average and improved their blood pressure enough to lower their risk for stroke and heart disease. You may notice that some days of the week you take more steps (like class days or weekends for example), but simply being aware of your patterns can be motivating.
If you’re currently nowhere close to taking 10,000 steps daily, that’s OK. Making the change will be a commitment, but the health payoff is tremendous. Here are some tips:
Every little bit counts: Try parking a bit further away from the store, move while talking on the phone, & view interruptions that make you get up and move in a more positive light.
Make downtime work for you: You’ve heard me say it a lot in class - Move around the house during commercial breaks or do calf raises while waiting for your doctor. Little changes add up.
Wear comfortable shoes: Be ready and able to walk whenever the opportunity arises. One study found that office workers who wore flats instead of heels to work took an average of 493 more steps a day.
If you’re not very active, know that you can build up to 10,000 steps gradually. If you currently average 2,000 steps a day, for example, try for 2,500 each day for a week. Then, the next week increase your goal to 3,000 each day, and so on. You’ll reach your goal of 10,000 before you know it and Wade into Fitness classes can help you towards that goal!