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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How to restart your weight loss

Sometimes, losing weight becomes harder than normal. Plateau, stall – there are lots of names for this, but sometimes it feels like the weight just won’t come off.
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Of course, that’s not true – there’s a way to get rid of the weight, but it will probably need a little change to your approach.

So, before you despair and think about giving up, run through this list.

Has this been a consistent problem for more than 6 weeks?

Weight loss isn’t a straight line; we all go up and down. This is especially true for women, where hormonal differences can cause weight gain. Weigh yourself on the same day at the same time each week. If your weight hasn’t changed for 6 weeks, you should start to look for other reasons.

Are you drinking enough water?

Amazingly, many of us confuse thirst for hunger. If you’re not getting enough water, you’re making it harder for your body to run and harder for you to avoid the snacks!

Are you getting enough sleep?

It’s not just that if you’re asleep, you’re not eating (although that’s a help). A recent study has shown that just one night of bad sleep leads people to be hungrier and to choose larger portion sizes. Here’s Why You Should Get More ZZZ.

Are you eating enough veg?

Green, leafy vegetables are low in calories and help you feel full after a meal.

Are you measuring your portions?

It’s too easy for portions to creep up as you get comfortable with your new style of eating. It’s usually gradual; a slightly-larger portion of Shreddies in the morning, or the swap of the soda water back to a swift half on Friday evening. Why not go back to weighing your food, just to make sure you’re eating what you think you are.

Are you eating something which only seems good for you?

Salad dressings, Greek yoghurt – there are many foods out there that are healthy in principle, but are easy to eat too frequently or too much. Always check the nutritional label!

Are you overeating for emotional reasons?

It’s something we all do from time to time, but it’s not really helpful. If you’re eating just to change your mood, see if there’s something you can do instead. I’ve taken to making and enjoying a big cup of tea.

Have you reduced your physical activity level?

Maybe you’ve gone back to taking the lift at work, rather than walking up the 4 flights of stairs. Amazingly, little things like this add up. Have you tried to walk 10,000 steps every day?

Are you weighing yourself consistently?

Remember the old rhyme, ‘a pint of water weighs a pound and a quarter’? Well, if you drink a pint of water, that’s how much your weight will immediately increase! It’ll go down again as you go through the day, but that’s why we always recommend weighing in the same clothes at roughly the same time of day.

Have you already been losing for a while?

If none of the above apply, it’s possible that you’ve done so well that you’ve shrunk below your current calorie-count. When you started to lose weight, you were larger, and so needed more calories just to fuel yourself. Well guess what? You’re smaller than you were before, so now (cruelly) you need fewer calories to ‘run’. That unfortunately means you may need to reduce your intake to continue the good work. Try working out a reasonable calorie target here.

Set a target and make it SMART.

Yesterday I spoke about the importance of a weight loss target. Today I wanted to expand on how to set one.

Setting a target is one thing – but how do you make sure it’s one that will fit and inspire you?

There’s lots to mock in business-speak, jargon and buzzphrases. However, clichés can still hold some truth. One of these is SMART. This is an acronym for how to make a meaningful target.

  • Specific – If you just say “I want to lose weight” then you could just accept 2 kilos when really you wanted to lose 8. Decide what you really want and are willing to work towards.
  • Measurable – Track your progress. This doesn’t have to be the scale (even if it is, it shouldn’t be too often, you know the drill) but do track – kilos on the scale, inches off your waist or physical abilities you’ve gained/improved. It’s important to know how you’re getting on.
  • Achievable – Don’t start by saying you want to lose 50 lbs in 4 months. You’ll decide its too much of a mountain. Pick something possible; NICE‘s recommendation of 1kg/2lb a week is helpful.
  • Relevant – Make sure your target fits you. Don’t try for 3lbs a week just because a friend managed this. If you’ve a reason to lose weight, try to build that in to the target. If you’re losing weight for a party, make your target weight a specific (attainable) dress size – then go and buy that dress.
  • Timely – Pick a deadline, either an important date (for me it was my 30th birthday) or work backwards from how much you want to lose and therefore how long this will take. A deadline strengthens your resolve as you can’t slack.

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.

Moves – the pedometer meets the iPhone

Moves is a great app to help with tracking and enforcing your everyday physical activity.

If tracking your progress is important to improving (tip: it is) then Moves can help by showing you exactly what you’ve been doing and how that correlates to your aims.

Like a Nike FuelBand, Moves uses accelerometers to track your movement and give you a good understanding of how that relates to the real world, both in terms of number of steps and distance covered.

Where it by far exceeds the FuelBand is that as it uses your iPhone to track you, it also knows your speed and general motion. It transmits your data back to the developers’ servers which can (fairly accurately, in my experience) compare your data to others to decide whether you’ve been walking, running, cycling or even travelling by ‘transport’ – car, bus or train.

It’s also free! I have played with Moves for about a month now and it has shown itself to be far more accurate than my FuelBand for calculating my walking, for example.

It’s not perfect – at the moment, there’s no easy way to export your data, for example – but the biggest problem is that it is hungry.

Having your phone’s sat-nav system active all day drains the battery fast. I have an older phone and so its battery isn’t perfect, but I still found there were many days where the battery wouldn’t last until bedtime.

Ultimately, it was this that made me stop using the app – I found I spent longer worrying about needing to top-up my battery than I did about my activity level. However, I already own a FuelBand. If I didn’t have a personal tracker, I would almost certainly still be using Moves.

Rumour has it it that Apple may be building a smartwatch with personal tracking capabilities. Until then, Moves is the smartest personal tracker out.

Keep track

One of the most important ways to keep motivated when you’re losing weight is to recognise your successes. That’s why it’s crucial that you monitor your progress.

However, this can be taken too far. Most dieticians recommend against weighing yourself daily. Just because you ate nothing but lettuce yesterday and worked out for 45 hours, you may still not see this reflected on the scale. The human body isn’t a “perfect engine” – it’s not quite as simple as ‘calories in < calories out’, no matter what some Personal Trainers say.

Unfortunately this can be quite demoralising if you rely on that number alone to track your progress. So here’s some other ideas you can add to your trackers.

  • Waist, neck, thigh and arm circumferences – measure with a tape measure – they even make ones that are easy to use for measuring yourself. you may find that you are still shrinking, even if the scale doesn’t show this.
  • Clothes – how are your clothes fitting? Looser than before? Have you had to buy new outfits? Keep one item of your old stuff – I kept an old suit – to reaffirm your progress when you’re struggling.
  • Activity – If you’re being more active, use this as a measuring stick. Can you swim for further, or in less time?  How many flights of stairs can you climb before you’re out of puff?
  • Non-scale victory – this is a term used by some online slimming communities to talk about anything other than the scale. Did your friend finally notice your progress? Was this the first time you were able to refuse dessert at your favourite restaurant? You managed to gracefully accept a biscuit from an open pack without scoffing the lot? Write it down! By noticing these little successes you’ll find more of them – and find more of a reason to create future victories, too.

Do you have any other ideas? Mention them in the comments and I’ll add them to the list.

Samsung Galaxy S4 includes health tracking features

Samsung’s latest superphone, the Galaxy S4, includes a suite of tools to help you monitor your health-stats. More adventurously, they’ve also brought out a range of devices that could bring the tracking trend even further into the mainstream.

S Health, as the new services are collectively known, includes a wireless bodyweight scale, an activity monitor bracelet and a heart rate monitor. There have been suggestions that blood pressure and blood sugar monitors could be added in the future.

body scale s band Heart Rate Monitor

It’s a bold move, but not illogical. The hot rumours suggest that Apple will soon launch an iWatch. Match this with Nike’s low-key admission that they are no longer working on an Android app for their FuelBand and it’s a strong hint that perhaps Apple could be entering the market with Nike’s expertise driving it.

The iPhone’s dominance of the entire third-party device market means that Samsung needs to develop these devices itself to compete.

Do people want self-monitoring equipment? Will they pay for these things? Samsung hasn’t announced their pricing for the gizmos, but similar devices currently sell for around £80-£130 each. It’s a steep price to pay for a watch or a bathroom scale if you’re not a numbers freak. But as these prices come down and more of us are exposed to friends and family using Trackers, perhaps consumers will start to see the benefit of monitoring their health, rather than simply reacting to it.

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!

How do you measure your diet’s progress beyond the scale?

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The most common ‘moment of reckoning’ for a slimmer is the weigh-in. But don’t forget to monitor your progress in other ways, too.

Sometimes progress doesn’t immediately show on the scale, but you can see how you’re doing with these other tools.

  • Take some candid photos once in a while – full body, from the front and from the side. It’s the best way to look at yourself dispassionately and see how you are getting on.
  • Measuring your waistline with a tape measure is useful, too.
  • Keep a record of your fitness level by timing how long it takes for you to run up and down a flight of stairs you know.

Why should I keep a food diary?

When you’re starting to lose weight, the very first thing you need to know is where you stand. You can’t change what you don’t measure.

I would always recommend that you keep a food diary, at least for a week or two, where you record everything that passes your lips, even coffees and glasses of water.

Once you do this, you have a better chance of looking dispassionately at your approach and seeing if there are any gaps.

Before I did this, I thought I ‘occasionally’ had a snack at the train station. After keeping my diary, I realised it was 3 times a week on average – that’s 900 kcal I managed to ‘forget’ every week!

What might be on your ‘forgotten’ food list?