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#1: General Activity Level
How Many Steps Do I Need Each Day?
Counting your daily steps is a good measure of your general activity level. Below 5,000 steps per day is considered sedentary and increases your risk of arthritis, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and a shorter lifespan. This is a concern because the average American only walks 3,000 to 4,000 steps a day, or roughly 1.5 to 2 miles.
So how many steps should you get? The standard recommendation has been 10,000 steps per day, but that recommendation was not based on actual research.
If you are at risk for arthritis of the knees or already have arthritis of the knees it takes 6,000 steps per day to prevent becoming disabled from your arthritis, according to a study of 1800 people published in 2014 in Arthritis Care & Research. Lower extremity exercise, like walking, keeps your leg muscles strong and preserves joint stability, thus decreasing pain and inflammation. The study's lead author, Dr. White stated someone with knee arthritis who is just starting to exercise, might want to start with 3,000 steps per day, as a first goal, and increase to 6,000 steps later.
To prevent early death, it takes 7,000 steps per day. According to a 2021 study in JAMA Netw Open, people that got at least 7,000 steps per day had a 50% to 70% lower risk of mortality. People who took 10,000 or more steps a day didn’t experience a further risk reduction in early death, according to this study of 2,110 people followed for 11 years.
So there you have it. The average American gets 3,000 to 4,000 steps a day, and you need about twice that number of steps to stay healthy and prevent disability.
It's easy to track your steps. Pedometers are pretty cheap these days, with several models you can find online under $10. A Fitbit will count your steps plus track your exercise and sleep, but they do cost more. There are free apps you can get for your smart phone that count steps including Google Fit that is completely free with no in-app purchases or ads. Find an app or device that works for you.
Goal for Most Adults: 7,000 Steps, 5 days a Week.
#2: Aerobic Exercise
As we discussed above, your general activity level, as measured by daily steps has a huge impact on your health. However, aerobic exercise takes your health up to a whole new level. Aerobic exercise improves mental health, improves sleep and just makes you feel great all over. Aerobic exercise is the single, most important thing you can do for your heart, which is important, because heart disease is still the #1 killer in America.
What is Aerobic Exercise?
Exercise is aerobic, if and only if, it increases your heart rate and keeps it elevated for a period of time. Walking, running, swimming, bicycling, dancing, and gardening, are all aerobic exercises, if you do them intensely enough to elevate your heart rate.
Brisk walking, or the equivalent, is considered MODERATE level aerobic exercise. If you are exercising at a MODERATE level:
Your breathing may quicken, but you're not out of breath.
You may develop a light sweat after about 10 minutes.
You can carry on a conversation, but you can't sing.
Jogging, or equivalent is considered VIGOROUS level aerobic exercise. Your exercise is probably at a VIGOROUS level if:
Your breathing is deep and rapid.
You develop a sweat after a few minutes.
You can't say more than a few words without pausing for breath.
You can also measure your heart rate to determine your aerobic exercise level. Take 220 minus your age to estimate your maximum heart rate. If you are 50 years old then 220 minus 50 equals 170 as your maximum heart rate. According to the American Heart Association, MODERATE level aerobic exercise is 50% to 70% of your maximum heart rate, or in this case 85 to 119 beats per minute. VIGOROUS level is 70% to 85% or 119 to 144.
Skip the Math and Use These Rough Estimates
If you are 30, a heart rate of 95+ is MODERATE and 133+ is VIGOROUS level
If you are 40, a heart rate of 90+ is MODERATE and 126+ is VIGOROUS level
If you are 50, a heart rate of 85+ is MODERATE and 119+ is VIGOROUS level
If you are 60, a heart rate of 80+ is MODERATE and 112+ is VIGOROUS level
If you are 70, a heart rate of 75+ is MODERATE and 105+ is VIGOROUS level
You can take your pulse at your neck, or wrist. I recommend the wrist. You can feel the radial pulse on the artery of the wrist in line with the thumb. Place the tips of your index and middle fingers over the artery and press lightly. Do not use your thumb. Count for a full 60-seconds or count for 30 seconds and multiply by 2. Here is where the Fitbit comes in handy. You can just glance at your wrist and see your pulse. If you don't have a Fitbit, you will probably have to stop your exercise to measure your pulse.
When you reach the MODERATE or VIGOROUS level, you need to keep your exercise at that level for at least 10 minutes for MODERATE level or 5 minutes for VIGOROUS level to get the aerobic benefits. That means you can break your aerobic exercise up and just do part of it at a time, as long as you do it for at least 10 minutes at a time for MODERATE level aerobic exercise. You will get the same benefit from 10 minutes of brisk walking 3 times a day, as you will from 30 minutes of brisk walking, once a day.
Many people that are active at work believe they don't need to do aerobic exercise. But in most cases, work is too stop and go. To get aerobic benefit, you have to get your heart rate elevated and keep it elevated for 10 minutes at a time, at the MODERATE level or 5 minutes at the VIGOROUS level. That usually doesn't happen at work.
Five Days Per Week, Adults Should Get:
30 Minutes+ of MODERATE Level Aerobic Exercise
15 Minutes+ of VIGOROUS Level Aerobic Exercise
Or a Combination of The Two.
Do I Need Medical Clearance? Because MODERATE level aerobic exercise is just walking, most people don't need medical clearance to start. Never the less, if you are unsure about your health, get medical clearance before starting. Some people should start with just a 5 or 10 minute walk to begin with.
Do Better by Doing Less
In my experience, if you set your exercise goals too high to begin with, you are unlikely to stick with it. Set your goals low enough that you can keep it up. After awhile you can gradually increase your exercise, but sticking with your exercise is far more important than doing a lot of exercise to start with. It's OK to take some time to work up to the goals suggested above.
Will Exercise Really Make a Difference?
When a typical sedentary American doubles their daily steps from the average of 3,000-4,000 to the recommended 7,000+ per day and starts doing a 30 minute brisk walk 5 days per week, science tells us to expect these changes:
Total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels decline.
Good HDL cholesterol increases.
Triglyceride levels decline.
Resting heart rate decreases.
Cardiac ejection volume increases.
Blood pressure declines.
Aging related cognitive decline decreases.
Mental health improves.
Depression and anxiety decrease.
Immune function is improved.
Chronic pain decreases.
Arthritic joint pain decreases.
Fibromyalgia decreases and may go into remission.
Digestion improves and IBS is decreased.
Migraines and headaches are decreased in frequency and intensity.
Risk of disability decreases.
Mortality risk declines by 50% to 70%.
People report higher quality of life.
You deserve these benefits. You deserve to be in the elite minority of people that get the necessary exercise to be healthy!
The way to beat the Medical system, the way to beat Big Pharma, is to be too healthy to need their "solutions". Physical activity is your ticket to the good life!
Take care and BE HEALTHY!
© 2023· Content is Property Created by CW Jasper