What does sedentary mean to you? Likely you envision spending your days confined to your desk, couch, and bed. But, it might surprise you to find out that even an avid exerciser may qualify as sedentary. Many people who are hitting the recommended three to six workouts a week are shocked to learn we consider them basically inert. If you are like many professionals and busy parents you hit your daily workout then go on to sit at a desk, on a plane, or in a car driving your kids from one team practice to another. You then transition to dinner and cap it off with a session of your favorite Netflix series. If you knock it out of the park for thirty to sixty minutes a day, but then spend the rest of your waking hours toggling between a chair and sofa, you're in some ways canceling out all the good your workouts are doing. This is not to point fingers. We get it. Life is busy and complicated, and our whole
environment is set up to encourage sedentary behavior. Let’s first clarify what it really means to be sedentary versus active and, most important, show you how to make movement happen. Surprise, we are talking about walking. We can all stand to move more. We are built to move, it makes our body happy and wards off pain. Walking is not only an efficient way to get it done, it’s all intrinsically tied to the robustness of all the systems and structures in your body.
You have likely heard the phrase “sitting is the new smoking”. That’s a bit of an
exaggeration. If you are a human being you’re going to sit at some point; it’s ok. However, the number of hours that the average person sits is unreasonable. Take our hunter-gatherer ancestors; they walked an estimated 12,000 to 17,000 steps per day. Americans only take an average of 5,117 steps daily (about 2.5 miles). That's well below the average Australian (9,695 steps) and the Japanese (7,168 steps) who, not coincidentally, have considerably lower rates of obesity. The more time you spend walking, the more you’ll be doing to safeguard yourself from obesity, diabetes, heart disease, some cancers, osteoporosis, arthritis pain, colds and flu, depression, anxiety, and the list goes on. And it’s only part of the reward. Walking moves
your joints and loads your bones) including your spine and the bones in your feet–very important) and soft tissue in ways that improve durability and protect against pain. Walking also improves aspects of health–circulation, sleep, brain chemistry–that support movement. Crushing a CrossFit WOD, mountain biking down steep terrain, rafting down a raging river, bombing ski runs, running on rocky terrain, is all extracurricular. Nothing takes the place of walking.
Personal Note: While completing the 75Hard program I used walking as my outdoor workout most days. Not only did it increase my recovery time, keep my joints supple, and ward off back pain; even in the midst of doing two workouts a day for 75 days, it was also an opportunity to be creative, practice breathing techniques, and get my daily dose of the outdoors. More on the benefits of walking and your suggested daily step count in our next post.