Easy steps to self-care
In our last blog, we talked about the idea of self-care, and how we all need to take responsibility for our own health, both in what we eat and what we do. Today we’re going to take a closer look at the second of these factors – our daily exercise.
For many of us, stuck in offices from morning till night, the idea of exercise can seem so far out of our reach that we dismiss it altogether. The government recommendation of 150 minutes of exercise per week is all well and good, but who has two and a half hours to spare? Between the morning and evening commute, the mountain of work we have to get through, and everything we still need to do when we get home, there just doesn’t seem to be time left for exercising.
However, fitting a little exercise into your daily routine is a lot easier than you think. Just take a look at this video, featuring a typical office worker aiming to cover 10,000 steps a day, and you’ll see how easy it can be.
The NHS goal of 10,000 steps is generally accepted as a good target to aim for (in Japan it is 8,000 -10,000, and in the US, the President’s Challenge is 8,500). Studies show that the older we get, the less we walk, with 65% of college students achieving 10,000 steps a day, compared to just 21% of 25-75 year olds and 12% of 48-69 year olds.
10,000 steps – or five miles – a day may seem a daunting target, but it is easier than you think. The good news is that in your daily life you will already clock up around 4,000 steps just moving around your home or office, going to the loo and making a brew.
Taking more steps
To hit the 10,000 step target, you only need to add an extra 6,000 steps, either by taking one long walk, or by altering your daily routine in lots of smaller ways.
You don’t need to invest in a fancy FitBit or smartwatch to measure your steps; you can pick up a simple pedometer that can clip to your belt for just a few pounds.
You’ll take around 100 steps per minute when you’re walking, so walking the last ten minutes of your journey to and from work will give you 2,000 of your 6,000 extra steps straight away. You can also add steps by:
- taking the stairs instead of the lift
- walking the school run (or at least the last part of it)
- parking further from the door at the supermarket
- shopping locally
- taking a walk at lunchtime
Getting a dog is a great way to increase your steps, as you have no choice in going for a walk, whatever the weather. Try downloading your favourite podcasts to listen to while you walk, or better still, find a friend to walk and talk with. You’ll find the time, and the steps, fly by.
Walking and digestion
The postprandial stroll is sadly something of a bygone age, yet a short walk after a meal has been shown to have many benefits. Studies have shown that a postprandial walk speeds up the digestive system, moving food more quickly through the system. It has also been shown to improve blood sugar levels in type 2 diabetics. A 15minute walk after meals was shown to be more beneficial for blood sugar levels than a 45 minute walk earlier in the day.
So not only will an after dinner walk help towards your 10,000 step goal, it will also help your blood and your digestion too.
Where do I start?
Obviously, if you are very sedentary, you cannot expect to suddenly walk 10,000 steps a day. You need to build up slowly, and consult your doctor for advice. Many people find that swimming pools are a good place to start exercising, as the water supports your weight and makes it easier for your muscles and joints to get used to moving again.
Remember, even if you only manage 7,000 steps, then you have probably made 3,000 more steps than you normally would, which is still progress. Try aiming for 7,250 the next day and ease your step count up gradually.
It is important to remember that much of your effort will be wasted if you reward your walking with a sugary snack. 10,000 steps represent 400 calories, which can be wiped out in one go by a chocolate bar and a can of cola.
Self care starts here
You don’t need an expensive gym membership or fancy sports equipment to walk more, you just need a good pair of shoes or trainers and a little imagination. So get yourself a pedometer and step out to better health today.
Read more about the NHS 10,000 step challenge, read about the science of steps in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity.