Your Health

Move more, sit less: 10,000 steps to better health

Photo of a pair of runners and earbuds.
Photo of Darren Brereton. DARREN BRERETON
Winnipeg Regional Health Authority
Published Friday, June 15, 2018

Research shows that the average Canadian is sedentary for almost 10 of the 14 hours they are awake. That means 70 per cent of our waking hours are spent sitting in an inactive state.

This sedentary lifestyle has been linked to numerous health concerns including obesity, increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess fat around the waist, and abnormal blood glucose levels.

Recent studies have found that any extended sitting – at a desk, behind the wheel of a vehicle or in front of a screen – can be harmful. Both too much time sitting overall and long periods of uninterrupted sitting seem to increase the risk of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer.

In fact, some research has concluded that the risk of dying for those who sat for more than eight hours a day with no physical activity is comparable to the risks posed by obesity or smoking.

As Director of Health and Fitness Programs at the Wellness Institute, a medical fitness facility specializing in treating people managing chronic health conditions, I see the results of inactivity.

Many people who come to the Institute have been inactive and are now managing a health issue like heart disease or diabetes. Often their goals are simply to be able to do day-to-day activities without feeling exhausted.

We see the other side as well. An active lifestyle is a powerful prevention tool – more powerful than age. An active 80-year-old has a lower risk of death than an inactive person in their 60s.

Regardless of where you are at today, the good news is that you can improve your health.

The Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines recommend that adults aged 18 to 64 get at least 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous intensity aerobic activity per week. Meeting this goal for physical activity regularly reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure, anxiety, depression, some cancers and unhealthy weight gain. Perhaps it should come as no surprise that many of the same health issues linked to inactivity can be fought by moving more.

One way to become more physically active is to set a goal of walking 10,000 steps a day.

According to Fitbit.com and experts in the fitness field, taking 10,000 steps is about the same as walking five miles or getting 30 minutes of activity. If you reach the 10,000 step goal at least five days a week, you will get about 150-minutes of activity.

Of course, some people may find it difficult to cram a five mile walk into their busy schedules. That’s why it’s important to incorporate walking into your daily routine.
For example, if you take the bus to work, get off a few stops earlier than normal and take the extra 15 to 20 minutes to walk the rest of the way. Do the same thing on the way home.

At work, try to take a break from sitting at least every 30 minutes. Simple changes like walking with your colleagues for meetings, or organizing your tasks so that you need to walk to different areas of the building can be helpful. Go for walks on your own or with co-workers during breaks and lunch hours. Use the stairs instead of elevators. 

Redefine your evenings. Planning an activity is a sure fire way to increase the amount you move. Walks, bike rides or fun games with family, friends or pets will help you become more active while providing positive interactions with those you love.

As you work toward your goal, keep in mind that there is clear evidence that doing some physical activity is better than doing none at all, and that increasing the amount of activity above 150 minutes can provide even more health benefits.

If you have not been active for a long time, it is important to start slowly and work toward the goal in manageable steps. If you are only able to do 1,000 steps or five to 10 minutes of activity to start, don’t be discouraged. Gradually increase your steps per day while listening to your body. And, if you are not sure what is safe for you, talk to your doctor for advice.

Everyone, regardless of fitness level, can reduce their risks by focusing on daily changes that result in moving more and sitting less. Why not get started today? 

Darren Brereton is the Director of Fitness Programs at the Wellness Institute at Seven Oaks General Hospital. This column was originally published in the Winnipeg Free Press on Friday, June 15, 2018.


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