In my last blog we explored the responsibility of the healthcare community to better promote active living. Too few of adults are getting the 150 minutes a week of moderate exercise suggested by the Centers for Disease Control in its 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines.
Part of the problem is that too many of us work in sedentary environments – in front of computers, sitting at desks and spending too much of our day reviewing emails. When we go home we get sucked into Netflix, YouTube or our favorite cable TV reality show. Or maybe we make dinner for the family, help our kids with homework and review even more emails preparing for the next day.
Even if we have what is perceived to be a busy job, we may not be getting enough exercise. The European Society of Cardiology recently released a study examining activity patterns of 83 employees working in six occupational groups at a hospital during a typical work week.
The employees wore pedometers to log their daily steps. Only 6 percent of study subjects achieved the recommended levels of 10,000 steps per day, while 30 percent achieved less than 5,000 steps, a “sedentary” level of daily activity.
So what do we do to make ourselves more active? Here are a few common-sense suggestions:
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator. If you work on the 6th floor or higher, consider climbing 4 flights and then taking the elevator the rest of the way to start, then gradually increasing the number of flights you take as you build up your endurance. If you normally wear high heels to work, consider wearing tennis shoes until you get to your desk and then putting on your heels.
- Park farther away from the entrance – If you’ve worked hard for that prime parking spot, good for you, but is it really helping you stay healthy? Consider parking a block or more away from the front entrance. Every step counts.
- Organize a sports team at work – You don’t have to be an all-star player to get out and get active on a softball team or bowling league (remember to go easy on the concession stand foods). It’s great for team-building, so you may be able to talk your boss into helping pay for the uniforms.
- Walk the dog – If you have a dog, do you make a point of walking it every day at least once around the block, if not more? Your pet will thank you with tail wags and that hopeful glint when it sees the leash in your hand. Your waistline will benefit with the additional 1,000 to 2,000 steps a day you gain from a leisurely walk.
- Plant a vegetable garden – Tending to a vegetable garden has the double benefit of burning calories and providing you with nutritious food you grow in your own yard.
- Stalk the sidelines – If you have kids in soccer, basketball or flag football, get up and walk around while you cheer on your little ones. Even a kinder soccer game will last more than 30 minutes, so that’s time you can spend getting in a few steps while you enjoy the fruits of parenthood.
- Make the commercial break a stretching break – We all need time to decompress, and if TV is your preferred nightly leisure activity there’s nothing wrong with that. But you don’t have to just sit on the couch to enjoy your programs. Take a few minutes during the commercial to stretch, or even get in a few situps. If you’re watching a streaming program with no commercials, you can still enjoy the show while you do some toe touches or push-ups.
You are the expert in how you live, so you can also take charge of your physical activity levels by examining how you can be more active and making changes in your home and work environments to burn a few more calories, take a few more steps and set a good example for the people you love and who love you.
Remember, it starts with a first step.
Dr. Annette “Dr. Z” Zaharoff heads the Non-Surgical Center of Texas, focusing on non-surgical alternatives to relieve pain and repair injuries. A former professional tennis player who competed in the WTC circuit, Dr. Zaharoff remains actively involved with the US Tennis Association. Learn more about her at www.drzmd.com. You can follow her on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/DrZaharoff