It is well known that a sedentary lifestyle leads to illness. At first we just don’t feel well – not enough energy or stamina, little aches and pains, gaining a little weight. Eventually, these discomforts and inconveniences can turn into something more serious – heart disease, diabetes, obesity, arthritis, digestive problems, and so on. Many Americans exercise regularly to help them stay healthy, but a new study shows that even those who hit the gym a few times a week might not be getting anywhere near the exercise needed to prevent chronic disease.
How much exercise is enough? Generally accepted recommendations are 150 minutes of moderate exercise (e.g. walking at a pace fast enough to raise your heart rate and respiration but not so fast that you can’t carry on a conversation) each week as well as weight lifting or some form of muscle-strengthening activity twice a week. According to the CDC, about 75 percent of Americans do not meet these standards.
Conversely, a sedentary lifestyle is defined as taking less than 5,000 steps a day – that’s the equivalent of walking about 2.5 miles. About 25 percent of Americans fall into this sedentary category.
However, according to a new study, it looks like about 10,000 steps a day (5 miles) is actually needed to maintain good health.
Researchers conducting the study found that the physiological changes seen in those at high risk for Type 2 Diabetes occur in people who transition from high amounts of activity (greater than 10,000 steps a day) to inactivity (fewer than 5,000 steps each day). These same physiological changes could also lead to other chronic disease.
Walking 5 miles is going to take the average person about 1 ½ hours – not something that most of us have time for on a daily basis. So, once we get up to the level of meeting the accepted recommendations, how do we bring our daily activity level up to 10,000 steps?
The answer lies in how we live our lives when we’re not exercising. Here are a few examples:
- Walk to the corner store instead of driving.
- Take the stairs, not the elevator.
- Park further from the store or your place of business.
- While at work, walk to another office for a meeting rather than calling.
- Take a short walk during lunch time.
- Walk the dog.
- Mow the lawn with a regular lawnmower instead of a riding mower.
- Rake the leaves.
- Put on some music and dance.
- Ditch the remote and get off the couch to change the channel.
In other words, exercising a few times a week at the gym is not enough when you spend most of the rest of your time sitting. You actually have to lead an active life day in and day out.
If you want to live longer and enjoy good health well into your ‘old age’, get up and move around. It’s not guaranteed to cure or prevent all ills, but it will certainly make a major contribution.
Sources: Medical News Today, http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/232158.php; The Walking Site, http://www.thewalkingsite.com/10000steps.html