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Take a Walk!
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
We are in midst of an obesity epidemic in this country. Currently, approximately two-thirds of adults are either overweight or obese. One factor for the marked prevalence of obesity is thought to be consumption of fast foods and super-sized meals. The conveniences of modern life have also had their impact. We hop in the car to go places. We rely on machines to do what used to be manual labor. Many spend hours on the couch in front of the TV...and get in a panic if the remote control is missing! Modern conveniences have certainly made life easier, but they have also promoted a sedentary lifestyle.
A recent study published in the journal of the American College of Sports Medicine, Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise, evaluated physical activity in an Amish community. The Amish are highly active in their daily lives and use no electricity. The participants in the study wore pedometers. It was discovered that the average Amish male walked over 18,000 steps per day, and the average woman walked over 14,000 steps. This is compared with the average sedentary American adult who logs around 5,000 steps per day.
Interestingly, although the Amish diet is typically high in calories and fat, including foods such as meat, gravy, eggs, and pies, only a small percentage of the Amish were obese. In this study, only 4 percent were obese and 26 percent were overweight. This compares with the 65% prevalence of obesity in the general population. This study suggests that the Amish were able to maintain healthier weights by being more active.
In another study, published in the Journal of Health Promotion, participants that adhered to a plan of walking 10,000 steps a day had significant improvements in their weight, percent body fat, and waist circumference. Daily walking also elevated good cholesterol.
Try using a pedometer. It's an easy way to keep track of your steps. Shoot for 10,000 steps a day. This is the equivalent of approximately 5 miles.
Get back to basics. Go out, get some fresh air, and enjoy the benefits of walking!For more information:
- Bassett DR, Schneider PL, Huntington GE. Physical activity in an old order Amish community. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc. 36(1):79-85, 2004
- Schneider PL, Bassett DR, Thompson DL, et al. Effects of 10,000 steps per day goal in overweight adults. The Journal of Health Promotion. 21(2):85-89, 2006
One-quarter of Americans perform no form of physical activity in their spare time. Being inactive is known to be a health risk, contributing to heart disease and obesity. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends accumulating at least 30 minutes of physical activity on most days of the week. There are many ways to increase physical activity, but walking is the most common choice of exercise for those beginning a program of physical fitness. Starting a walking program is simple. Comfortable clothes and a pair of walking shoes are all that are needed. A regular walking program can help improve cardiovascular endurance, burn calories, lower blood pressure, and reduce blood cholesterol.
Progress with a walking program in increments. Initially, aim to walk for just 10 minutes at a time. Soon you should be able to build up to a 30-minute session or longer. Walk at a comfortable pace, swing your arms naturally, and focus on good posture. Your head should be lifted and your shoulders relaxed. Walking with a partner or in a group makes walking more fun, and it provides an opportunity to enjoy the social potential of exercise.
For more on walking, check out "A Walk a Day."
Pedometers offer a convenient way to monitor physical activity. Pedometers are devices that keep track of steps taken or distance traveled. These days, they are available at a nominal cost. They can be used during a workout to measure the distance that is walked or jogged. Many devices also estimate calories burned. In general, these devices are more accurate in counting steps than in measuring distance or caloric expenditure.
Pedometers offer an alternative to keeping track of exercise time; many individuals prefer to let the pedometers do the counting rather than watching the clock. By wearing a pedometer throughout the course of the day, you can keep track of the amount of physical activity you are accruing. An appropriate goal for many individuals is 10,000 steps a day, or roughly a distance of approximately 5 miles. The American College of Sports Medicine suggests increasing steps taken per day in increments. First, keep track of your steps per day over a typical 4-7 day period. Make your daily step goal for the first week the highest number of steps per day obtained during the trial 4-7 day period. After the first week of the program, aim to add 500 steps per day until you reach your goal number of steps per day. For most individuals, 10,000 steps per day, or roughly 5 miles, is an appropriate target.
In a study published in Medicine & Science in Sports Exercise in April 2005, instructing sedentary women to walk 10,000 steps per day was more effective at increasing exercise per day than asking them to walk for 30 minutes on most days of the week. This study evaluated 58 sedentary women. The group that was instructed to exercise for 30 minutes averaged 8270+/- 354 steps per day during the intervention, compared with 10,159 +/- 292 steps per day in the group instructed to take 10,000 steps per day. Both groups had pedometers, but only the group counting steps could see the distance they logged everyday.For more about pedometers, check out the following websites: