The efficient use of your time may be costing your health.
While most would agree that being physically active is an important part of leading a vibrant, healthy life, most of us also flounder when it comes to finding the time to do it. Ironically, one of the best and easiest ways to get more active is to be as inefficient as possible.
Now, I know all you type-A’s out there just took a deep breath to argue that, but hear me out!
Our modern lifestyle has us tethered to electronics and sitting for much longer than our bodies were designed for. We are working harder, longer hours trying to keep up with increasing pressures and workloads. It’s getting so bad, the Society for Human Resource Management just recently reported that workplace burnout is reaching an “epidemic level,” which translates to even more dependency on technology and heroic efforts to find more efficient ways of getting our to-do lists checked off.
This not only leaves little time for planned physical activity like sports or exercise, it shaves off time we spend being active naturally. We try to park as close as we can to the office because we’re cutting it close to meetings or trying to maximize our work hours. We don’t get up and walk around the office so we can stay focused on being highly productive at the task at hand. We send texts or emails to our co-workers (or family members) who are in the same building or even across the room, instead of getting up and walking over to talk. We try to make as few trips as possible when bringing in groceries, doing housework or yardwork, in order to save time for more “productive” tasks.
As a result, Americans barely get in a little over half the recommended daily goal of 10,000 steps, just 5,900 per day. It’s probably not surprising we are behind other countries around the world: a 2003 exercise study found Australians and the Swiss walk almost twice as much as we do. Since the definition for “sedentary” in terms of steps is less than 5,000 steps per day, we have our work cut out for us.
Where did the magic number 10,000 come from?
The 10,000 daily step goal originates from research done in Japan in the 1960’s. Dr. Yoshiro Hatano and his team found that on average, people only walk 3,500 to 5,000 steps per day. They did calculations that showed it would take about 10,000 steps to burn 20% of your daily calories through activity. The original science is a bit sketchy, but studies since then have shown that walking 10,000 steps a day can lower blood pressure and improve glucose levels.
Do you need to walk 10,000 steps a day? No, not really. Most exercise authorities recommend getting another 30 minutes more per day than you’re getting right now. The Center for Disease Control and prevention recommends 150 minutes per week of moderate activity per week (enough where you should feel out of breath and have trouble saying a whole sentence). This is more like 6-7,000 steps per day. If you walk briskly for 30 minutes, that’s about another 3,000 steps, so it doesn’t take much to get you out of the sedentary zone and into a healthier, higher energy lifestyle.
The good news is that you don’t have to run out and get a wearable tracker to make sure you increase your activity level by 30 minutes a day, nor do you have to spend hours in the gym and disrupt your already precarious schedule. You just need to build in some inefficiencies to sneak in more steps.
Here are some basic step metrics: 2,000 steps is about 1 mile of fitness and on average, people walk bout 100 steps per minute. This makes for some simple math:
- 5 minutes = 500 steps
- 10 minutes = 1,000 steps
- 10,000 steps = 5 miles
Therefore, if you want to measure the increase your activity, you could add 20-30 minutes of walking to your daily routines.
Here are 25 very easy ways to get in 5-10 minutes of walking by disrupting your most efficient habits.
- Make a game of parking in the farthest spot from the entrance wherever you go: work, the grocery store, the mall, etc.
- Drink lots of water – you’ll need to find a bathroom every few hours and you can make a game of going to the farthest one, or taking the stairs up and down on the way to and back
- Take a 10-20 minute walk at lunch (instead of working through it)
- Take a short walk after dinner
- Walk or bike to work
- Always take the stairs
- Set a timer on your computer or smartphone and get up and “take a turn” around the office
- Go for walking meetings
- Go on walking dates with friends instead of sitting in Starbucks
- Find the farthest bathroom or take the stairs up and down on the way to and back
- Walk the longest way around to go refill your coffee
- Take a break to go walk a few sets of stairs
- Walk around the block two or three times when you go get the mail
- Vacuum or sweep the house in new patterns that retrace your steps
- While grocery shopping, leave your cart at the end of the aisle, walk to get your items then walk back
- Instead of fast-forwarding through commercials on your DVR, pace around or jog in place
- When you take the stairs, go one floor past your destination
- Mow the lawn in a random pattern
- Fold and put away laundry one item at a time instead of filling up the basket
- Bring your groceries in one bag at a time
- When take the dog out for a stroll through the neighborhood, follow her lead instead of making her keep to a straight line
- Tidy the house in a series of loops instead of one room at a time
- Take out the garbage one bag at a time
- Walk around the block before or afterwards when arrive for an appointment
- Pace while you wait in line, at the bus stop or airport
Start small for success: shoot for getting in 1,000 more steps per day each week. As you approach all the little choices that come up every day to choose the shortest route or the long way around, remember that “sitting is the new smoking,” so cheers to your disruptive habits!