Why are we meant to take 10,000 steps a day to keep fit?

Do you really need to take 10,000 steps a day to keep fit? - BBC News

A simple, clear article about the history of the 10,000 step target set by many organisations – where did that come from, anyway?

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Commit to a goal.

I’ve signed up to a 5k run.

I’m not a runner. I don’t particularly like it and I find it very hard to get my trainers on and get out there. Which is exactly why I’ve signed up.

Sometimes, it’s important to have a goal – something to stretch you and make you work towards a result. When you’re losing weight, the first few kilos/pounds are easy to lose, because you’re running away from something – from ‘fat me’.

When you’re getting closer to your target, suddenly it’s much harder as you need to change your motivation to run towards something. And that what I’m doing – literally. I’m running towards my first 5k.

Using the NHS’ 5K podcast, I’ve started the 9-week programme, which will culminate with the Color Run, an untimed run which has its first races in the UK this year. I’m running in London. The sense of fun (you’re blasted with paint at kilometre markers, leaving you looking like those fools above) and the lack of competition (my aim is just to run the whole way, rather than to achieve a certain time) gives me enough flexibility to believe that this is an achievable, realistic target.

Of course, it doesn’t have to be running. Perhaps it’s not going up for seconds at a buffet, or being able to skip up the stairs at the shopping centre without running out of puff. But work on something small and build from there.

Get running with Couch to 5K

Thinking about exercise can be a bit bewildering, especially if you’ve never even trotted further than the corner shop.

Couch to 5k is designed to get you off your couch, on your feet and out the door with no new equipment – just you, your trainers and your headphones.

Working from just a walk around the block, the programme slowly builds in segments of jogging and then running, minute by minute, until after 9 weeks you are running consistently and eventually for 5 kilometres straight – the ‘5k’ of the title.

If my description sounds unnerving, don’t let it scare you – the three sessions a week are well tailored, increasing almost imperceptibly.

Best of all, it’s cheap or even free. The NHS has funded a podcast, or series of audio files that can be downloaded and used on any media player. It includes instructions and a timed track that bleeps and bloops at you to tell you when to change your pace. There are also smartphone apps that do the same, which have the benefit that you can listen to your own music in the background.

Even if you’ve never attempted any form of exercise since PE at school, Couch to 5K will have you running – properly – in just over 2 months.

Plan your meals with Tesco

Are you bewildered by choice? Would you rather just have someone tell you what to do?

We at LazyFit are all about offering different approaches to weight loss and maintenance – we believe that there are small (and large) changes you can make to redesign your lifestyle into a healthy, sustainable approach. But sometimes we can feel the need for some outsider advice.

Tesco Health & Wellbeing is a new site (still in beta or ‘test mode’) from the supermarket Behemoth. Give it your current details and approach and you can select a range of diet approaches, like low GI, ‘Mediterranean’, diabetic support or healthy heart. These can then be tailored to you even more closely with a dizzying range of options from your activity level to your willingness to eat individual foods.

The site then prepares meal plans for you to explore, print, or even order online (naturally).

Once you’ve planned your food, the site then allows you to track how you really get on, both with a comprehensive food diary (with UK/IE nutrient levels) and even a place to record your exercise.

Despite the unwieldy name, it seems to share much of its DNA with its sister site, Tescodiets, with one very important distinction – it’s free.

If you’re just starting out, feel the need for a more focussed approach, or just fancy a change, give it a try – it may inspire you.

Telly – exercises for the advert breaks

lazy%20cat%20watching%20tv[1]18% of people who watch less than two hours of TV a day are obese.

30% of those who watch more than 4 hours are obese.

Not enough? OK, how’s this:

Overweight participants who cut their daily TV time in half (from an average of 5 hours to 2.5 hours) burned an extra 119 calories a day. And a recent study of people who successfully lost weight found that 63 percent of them watched less than 10 hours of TV a week.

Yikes.

Listen, I love a little telly-time too. So what can you do to improve this? First, make sure you’re posture’s perfect – no slumping like kitty up there. (We’ll talk about this later in the week, too). Second, try some exercises during the advert breaks – yes, that means without fast-forwarding, those with Sky+. I’ve linked to some ideas in the sources, below. Don’t be an armchair athlete – someone who watches sport on the TV but never takes part. If you can ‘earn’ your programmes by paying for it during the breaks, everyone gains – and you still get to watch Sherlock, too.

A brisk walk is healthier than running

A study from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California has suggested that as long as you’re expending energy, the speed doesn’t matter.

At least, that’s the findings from an astonishing six-year-long study on over 48,000 runners and walkers. It showed:

Risk of developing Running Walking
Heart disease down 4.5% down 9.3%
High blood pressure down 4.2% down 7.2%
High cholesterol down 4.3% down 7%
Type 2 diabetes down 12% down 12%

The catch? The amount of energy expended needs to be equal – so to achieve the same results a walker will have to walk much further and for longer than a runner would need to run.

“Walking and running provide an ideal test of the health benefits of moderate-intensity walking and vigorous-intensity running because they involve the same muscle groups and the same activities performed at different intensities,” said study leader Dr Paul Williams, from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California.

“The more the runners ran, and the walkers walked, the better off they were in health benefits. If the amount of energy expended was the same between the two groups, then the health benefits were comparable.

Exercises for when you’ve not got time for exercise

The exercises only use household items

Even if we can’t all find the time – or the enthusiasm- to get to the gym regularly, most of us can agree that exercise is an important part of healthy living and particularly of weight loss.

Nano Workout is a great ‘one purpose’ site – it gives you regular little snippets of exercise tips that you can work into your everyday life. Waiting for an appointment, travelling upstairs, even lying in bed – all become opportunities to take a few seconds and improve your activity level for the day.

In the words of its creator:

I no longer see working out as a binary event but I do it continuously during the day. […]  [Y]ou can achieve a more healthy life, no matter what your day looks like. A small amount of exercise many times becomes a lot when added up. For instance if you exercise when brushing your teeth it will add up to 24 hours during one year.

No, they’re not going to have the same impact as a full-on session, but the little tips add to your existing portfolio of healthy activities. I’ve also found them to be helpful if you’re stiff or aching in a particular muscle.In a way, I consider them to be the complimentary opposite of NEAT – a way to deliberately build a little more activity into your day.

11 questions to design the exercise routine you’ll stick to

We all know that different people have different interests, hobbies and tastes. So why do most of us believe there must be one secret approach out there?

In truth, there is – but the one that’s right for you won’t be the one that’s right for me – just like for diets.

So how can you design your perfect plan? Gretchen Rubin at The Happiness Project has set 11 questions to help you think about yourself and what might work for you.

Ask yourself these questions, and when you’re done, think about what kind of exercise routine would suit you best:

Exercise Questions

  1. Are you a morning person or a night person?
  2. Would you like to spend more time in nature?
  3. Would you like more time in solitude; or more time with friends; or more time to meet new people?
  4. Are you motivated by competition?
  5. Do you enjoy loud music?
  6. Do you do better with some form of external accountability, or does that just annoy you?
  7. Would you like to challenge yourself with exercise (whether by learning a new skill or pushing yourself physically)–or not?
  8. Do you like sports and games?
  9. Would you like more meditative time, or more time to watch TV, read newspapers, etc?
  10. Do you have a lot of control over your time?
  11. Are you sensitive to weather?

Hopefully, these will help you think about where you can start looking for your own personal goals.

How little we move – and why you should stand up more often

Even if you do get off your bum a few times a week to get to the gym, the studies are starting to show that this might not be enough for some. Most of us now work in an office chair, drive our commute and slump in front of the telly at home. Even with our deliberate attempts to improve our exercise levels, we’re still falling short of what’s needed.

Even worse, sitting for too long is now considered another of the many things that may cause diabetes.

So what should we do? Fidget. By incorporating more of these smaller exercises into our days we can increase our overall activity level outside of the dedicated forms of “Exercise”. Cutely, the academics call this Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis, or NEAT.

Six ways to get more NEAT and be more active

Inspired by Travis Saunders, here are some good tips to getting more not-exercise exercise:

  1. Wear a pedometer – or a FuelBand, or an UP; something that can help you monitor your NEAT. You can’t improve what you don’t measure. There’s no need to start with a too-ambitious goal. Can you get your step-count (or Fuel, or whatever) to be a hundred or so more than last week?
  2. Take the stairs – you probably wait longer for the lift than it would take to walk a couple of flights of stairs.
  3. Active transportation – can you walk, cycle, bus or train it? If not, have you considered parking at the far end of the car park?
  4. Drink plenty of water – It’s good for slimmers anyway, but it also encourages you to get up – if only to refill your glass and to visit the loo!
  5. Forget the phone, have walking meetings – If you need to chat with someone in the office, walk over there. If it’s a longer chat, why not invite them to go for a walk? It always looks impressive on the West Wing…
  6. Walk during your lunch break – I do this regularly. Not only does it improve my mood and give me a proper break away from my desk, but it encourages me to find new lunch venues, too!