By James Brusard
We know enough about physical activity to understand its positive impact on decreasing risk for heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, depression, and a variety of cancers1. Some enjoy a brisk hike to increase their weekly dose of activity, while others are inclined to drop by Coach Mike’s early morning Boot Camps. Make no mistake about it, these are both excellent ways to increase movement… but are they enough to counteract the foods we eat, and stave off the effects of aging? It’s time we start recognizing that physical activity should not be limited to what we do in the gym alone.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity each week in combination with at least two days reserved for resistance training1. This works out to just shy of 22 minutes of physical activity each day. But what about the other 14+ hours of the day you are awake? A 2017 survey found that Americans sit an average of 13 hours a day, and average 8 hours of sleep each night2. This results in a sedentary lifestyle of about 21 every day. Humans, by design, are made to move and must avoid the pitfalls of a sedentary lifestyle at all costs.
Here are a few quick strategies you can begin working into your daily routine for increasing physical activity and overall health:
- Alternate periods of sitting with periods of standing at work: This is perhaps the simplest way to allow the body to expend extra energy while still being able to execute daily tasks in the workplace. Standing rather than siting not only increases energy expenditure, but it decreases the risk for musculoskeletal issues of the lower back, hips, and neck that are associated with long bouts of sitting.
- Wear an activity tracker: Wearing an activity tracker that tracks measurements such as steps taken and average heart rate helps to paint a picture of your daily habits. Although previous recommendations suggest 10,000 steps per day for decreasing metabolic risks, a 2017 study published by the International Journal of Obesity proposed 15,000 daily steps as being much more accurate3.
- Get away from your desk and go for a walk on your lunch break: Walking for just 10 minutes a day during lunch breaks is enough to increase weekly physical activity by nearly an hour. Equally beneficial to this is research suggesting that a lunchtime stroll improves mood while increasing one’s ability to handle stress at work4.
- Have a plan that can be easily adopted: This can be as simple as always taking the stairs instead of the elevator, parking farther away from buildings, or going for a 10-minute walk first thing in the morning. None of these measures are particularly time-consuming, but can add up in the long run.
- Make increasing physical activity a personal matter: Regardless of whether you are doing it for yourself, your loved ones, or to make sure the dog gets some exercise too, view physical activity a personal matter rather than a chore. I personally run a mile every morning using the phone application Charity Miles (http://www.charitymiles.org/), which donates 25 cents for every mile walked or ran to a charity of your cause and is free of cost. Whatever the reason, make it personal.
Whether these strategies increase your daily physical activity by 15 minutes or 50 minutes, every bit counts towards compounding total weekly movement and becoming a healthier you. Looking to start a healthier lifestyle? Contact us today to learn more.