If you spend most of the day sitting at your desk – even if you’ve been for a run – you’re living a sedentary lifestyle. It’s time to get moving.
Despite my distaste of all things technology, I’ve been wearing the Garmin Vivofit 2 for a few months as an experiment to monitor my step count. It’s been fascinating.
We know that sitting is bad for us, but do we really know just how active (or sedentary) we are? Do you measure your steps? Or do you think that because you run, you don’t need to worry?
According to research, it doesn’t matter if you go running or to the gym. Long periods of sitting do the most harm. So even if you go for a run in the morning, but then sit at your desk for the rest of the day, you’re still considered sedentary.
UK guidelines suggest we should do 10,000 steps (or about five miles) of lifestyle activity each day. We need more regular movement.
Monitoring my step count has put this into perspective, and I’ve become somewhat obsessed. It beeps at me when I’ve been sitting down for too long. It doesn’t care that I just did a 20 mile run, walked the dogs then went to the shops. If I sit down for more than 60 minutes it buzzes at me to get moving. Which is exactly the point.
Regular movement is good for our health, posture, muscles and mental health. Movement keeps us alert and prevents our bodies from seizing up.
According to research, the average UK adult does about 3,000-4,000 steps per day. And we wonder why we’re facing an obesity crisis? If you work at a desk it’s easy to do. Drive to work, walk 100 yards to your office, sit down all day, drive home, sit down in front of the TV. That’s 3,000 steps at the most. Add a run, and three miles will give you about 6,000 steps. So at 9,000, you’re still below the UK recommended guidelines. It’s pretty appalling really. But what’s the answer?
Well what you can’t do is to rest on your laurels just because you run. You must be active in your daily lifestyle as well. Try wearing a step counter and you’ll shock yourself. There are some days when I’m busy with work, have a long drive or need to be at my desk all day. Even if I squeeze in a run, on those days I’m falling short of my target. And I feel really grotty.
Work out ways to include more movement in your day. It’s simple stuff, like take the stairs, park in the furthest spot from the shops or office, take a walking meeting. I had a meeting recently where I had to drive for four hours. I got there feeling awful, like a coiled spring. I had half an hour before my meeting, so I went for a power walk. Not only did I get my steps up, but I felt more alert and my meeting went really well too.
Step It Up
Right now, I’m training for a marathon, so my Vivofit keeps upping my daily target based on my average. A 20 mile training run, dog walk and shopping trip, clocks up 56,000 steps which is great. But the next day I can easily drop back to 10,000 if I don’t get out and walk.
Luckily I’ve got a pair of demanding Labradors which helps get my steps in most days, so my daily average is around 22,000.
There are lots of ways you can monitor your steps, some more accurate than others. For me the Vivofit 2 has worked well. It gets you moving, gives you a reminder to shift your backside from your chair and is a great way to really understand just how sedentary we can become – even as runners.
Sarah Russell has over 20 years’ experience in the fitness industry as a running coach, trainer, freelance writer and athlete. She also has a Masters degree in Sport Science and is a qualified England Athletics running coach – sarah-russell.co.uk.