5 Simple Changes = 5000 Steps a Day

Jan 18, 2012 10:00 AM ET
Campaign: Choose You
Dr. Alpa Patel

Choose You Blog

By Alpa Patel, ACS Strategic Director, Cancer Prevention Study-3

We all know that getting regular exercise is important for preventing disease and lowering the risk of premature death, but once you’ve done your exercise, how do you spend the rest of the day?   I go to the gym at least 5 days a week, but I had a wake-up call when I recently realized that I might actually be an “active couch potato” because after my workout, I spend the rest of my time sitting. That’s a major problem – considering I’m awake for at least 16 hours each day.   I clipped on my pedometer to see how many steps I get in a typical day doing only the basics: waking up, getting dressed, driving to work, taking the elevator to my office, getting up for lunch and a bathroom break, walking to my car, driving home, and sitting on the couch until bedtime. The grand total: only 1,500 steps… that’s less than 1 mile a day!   I knew that couldn’t be good for me. In fact, you may be surprised by the results of my recent study, which found that even though getting exercise is important, how much time you spend sitting – even after your workout – can also affect your risk of death.   The study included over 123,000 men and women and found that men were 17% more likely and women were 34% more likely to die prematurely if they spent 6 or more hours sitting compared to fewer than 3 hours per day. Remaining inactive for long periods of time can alter triglycerides, cholesterol and resting blood pressure, which are biomarkers of obesity, cardiovascular and other chronic health conditions.   I wanted to know how big of an impact small changes could really make, so I decided to do a little test on myself and made 5 simple changes to my daily routine:
  1. I walk to my coworkers’ desks instead of sending them an instant message

  2. I pace my office during lengthy teleconference calls

  3. I take a 15 minute break to go for a stroll after lunch

  4. I park at the farthest spot I find in the lot, instead of hunting for the closest

  5. I don’t skip all the commercials on my DVR, but use some of the breaks to do chores around the house

Those changes, which took only a few minutes every hour, added up to 5,000 extra steps a day. For most people that amount equals just over two miles (just over 2,000 steps is a mile)!  That, plus my daily workout, put me right in line with the National Institutes of Health’s recommendation of getting least 10,000 steps each day.   If I can do it, so can you!  Tell me, what simple changes can you make today to take get in a few extra steps?     Alpa Patel, PhD is a cancer epidemiologist with expertise in demonstrating the roles obesity and physical inactivity play as risk factors for cancer. She is particularly interested in the health benefits of sitting less & moving more. Patel is currently the strategic director of a nationwide cancer prevention study aimed at understanding the genetic, lifestyle and environmental causes of cancer.   ACS20208