by Dr. Sheri Colberg, Ph.D., FACSM
It has long been known that regular physical activity is essential for good health. Even well over 2,000 years ago, Hippocrates (460-370 BC) noted, “Eating alone will not keep man well; he must also take exercise. For food and exercise work together to produce health.” Why, then, is it so hard for us to embrace this concept of being active now?
The main reason that comes to mind is that doing structured exercise takes time, and we all seem to have too little of that nowadays. The only answer to having limited time is my new motto for everyone: “Take back your steps.”
What do I mean by that? A prime example occurs whenever I attend large conventions that involve escalators vs. stairs. I can’t tell you how many times I have come out of a large lecture hall and seen a long line of people (health care professionals at that) waiting to take the escalator that will allow them to ride up to the next floor—even when the stairs right next to the escalators are completely empty and readily available. (I think from now on, at all American Diabetes Association meetings, some of the escalators should be disabled and display signs reminding people to take back their steps!)
It’s time for all of us to start focusing more on doing “unstructured” activities like taking the stairs and walking more. You can always make time in your day to take a few extra steps here and there, and by the end of the day they can add up to a large number. They can even mostly replace your need to engage in more formal exercise programs for which too many people have excuses to not do regularly.
Sure, it’s still beneficial to get in your 30 to 60 minute bouts of aerobic training, and doing some resistance training every week—even if you just do exercises at home that use your own body weight as resistance—is critical to living long and well (and independently). Arguably, though, the best thing you can do for your overall health and well-being at this point is to simply move more all day long, however you can.
Ask your boss for a standing desk, stand up during phone calls, stand up during meetings instead of sitting down the whole time, get up and walk around at least once an hour (to break up your sedentary time), and do resistance exercises while sitting in your chair or driving in your car. All these things simply involve a slight mental adjustment to make them part of your new activity behaviors.
The joy of taking back your steps is that everyone can do it! (Even if you can’t walk, you can do it metaphorically by being more active doing seated exercises.) Who knows? You may start a trend among your family, friends, and coworkers. At a minimum, you’ll feel more energetic every day instead of tired all the time.
What are you waiting for? Get up and take back your steps today…and every day for the rest of your long and healthy life!
As a leading expert on diabetes and exercise, I recently put my extensive knowledge to use in founding a new information web site called Diabetes Motion (www.diabetesmotion.com), the mission of which is to provide practical guidance about blood glucose management to anyone who wants or needs to be active with diabetes as an added variable. Please visit that site and my own (www.shericolberg.com) for more useful information about being active with diabetes.