Are We Sitting Ourselves to Death?
This is a question I had to ask myself after reading one study about the detrimental effects of prolonged sitting in the Archives of Internal Medicine entitled, Sitting Time and All-Cause Mortality Risk in 222 497 Australian Adults. The conclusion of the study stated that "Prolonged sitting is a risk factor for all-cause mortality, independent of physical activity. Public health programs should focus on reducing sitting time in addition to increasing physical activity levels." In other words, individuals who work standing or walking and perform no additional exercises had better health outcomes than those that lived sedentary lives but exercised 1 hour per day.
Fitness trends come and go... we live in the era of P90x , Insanity and the Biggest Loser mentality, which are fueling our current exercise philosophies and are effective for some people. Yet, for the sedentary person, a different approach may be more effective. The safest way to increase our fitness and move from a sedentary life to an active life is to establish a base-line,assess where we currently are, and then, set a goal to increase our fitness level from that point. One viable way of accomplishing this is using a simple device called a pedometer. A pedometer counts steps. Some more advanced pedometers will calculate mileage and calories based on steps taken.
How many steps should we take per day? According to the NCBI Medical Publication less than 5000 steps is considered a sedentary lifestyle; 5000 - 7499 is low active and 7600- 9999 is considered somewhat active; and more than 10000 steps is considered an active lifestyle. Highly active individual take at least 12,500 steps per day.
Being alarmed at the outcome of this study, I decided to find my own baseline and determine what changes, if any, I needed to make. I considered myself fairly active. I discovered, when I work at my desk job without exercising, I average only 4000 steps. Wearing the pedometer has made me more aware of the need to take walk breaks throughout the day. I now set an alarm and every hour get up and walk around our office which is 50 steps. Since wearing my pedometer, I know that the circle around my neighborhood is 600 steps. If I get to the end of the day and I have not accumulated 10,000 steps, then I know exactly how many laps in the neighborhood I need to take to reach my goal.
What should we look for in a pedometer? First, I bought two to use with my clients and family. The cheapest one, a GAIAM Beginner model, broke after one drop. Prior to its demise, I found it would constantly reset when accidentally touched. It cost $8.00 and comes with a CD, but I would not recommend it. The second pedometer, the GAIAM ADVANCED model, was a good unit, it did not break the first time it was dropped, nor did it continually reset. Unfortunately, it did not come with a strap, which means, it falls off in transit it is lost and requires replacement. My favorite pedometer, so far, is the OMRON Go Smart HJ-112 Digital Pocket Pedometer. I like it for the following features:
I have used this pedometer clipped to my waist and in both my bra and a pocket. It comes with a strap which minimizes the chances of losing it, and it has never reset midday. One of my favorite features is that it resets at mid-night. This is not, however, a positive feature if you work an overnight shift; a fact that you will want to keep in mind when purchasing a pedometer for yourself. The price range for this pedometer is around $22.00.
In conclusion, although our time spent in the gym or working out is a vital part of our life, the come-back of the pedometer gives us access to a positive tool that will help us assess how sedentary we really are and help us stay active throughout the day.