Easy Steps to Better Health


Healthy Living - August 16, 2016
Amy Movius, MD
Millions of people are watching the Olympics, mesmerized by athletes around the world. It is only natural to think about your own body and perhaps be inspired to improve your personal fitness. Rather than taking on an extreme training program (that you likely will quit) following simple advice from an old Chinese proverb that advises to “eat half and walk twice” can have a huge impact on your health - literally with each step you take.
General appreciation for the benefits of simply walking more is readily evident with the wide spread use of tracking devices. The scientific evidence for the health benefits of walking has been emerging as well. Increasing the number of steps taken has been associated with weight loss, improvement in waist size, lower blood pressure, better blood glucose, decrease heart disease, and improved quality of life among other positive things. Perhaps most strikingly, an Australian study published last year looking at over 2,000 adults found that increasing the number of baseline steps taken from a sedentary (inactive) state to 10,000 steps/day was associated with a 46% lower risk of dying in the next 10 years!  What’s more, the benefits were seen in a linear fashion.  This simply means that the more steps you take each day, the less chance you have of dying in the next 10 years.
Tracking devices can be basic or very fancy; and simply wearing one has been shown to increase activity.  Whether you use a device or not, you don’t have to power walk long distances to get benefits - all steps count!  Cultivating a few good habits into your everyday life can really add up.  For example:
         1.  Park in outer portion of parking lot - be it work, grocery store, bank etc. 
         2.  Park and go inside of businesses instead of using drive through.  (this helps the environment too!)
         3.  Have face to face discussions instead of making phone calls when able. 
         4.  Take the stairs when possible.  (general rule is 1 flight up/2 flights down)
         5.  Walk instead of drive when you can (visiting friends, grocery shopping, school/work)
         6.  Use the farthest “whatever” - bathroom stall, coffee machine, water fountain.
         7.  Speaking of water… staying hydrated will result in more bathroom trips ;)
Making these small changes can have a big payoff. They are available to everyone and don’t cost a dime. The results can be as good as gold.
  1.  Ross R et al, Evaluating a small change approach to preventing long term weight gain in overweight and obese adults — Study rationale, design, and methods.  ContempClinTrials, 2016 March; 47:275-81
  2. Dwyer et al, Objectively Measured Daily Steps and Subsequent Long Term All-Cause Mortality:  The Tasped Prospective Cohort Study.  PLoS ONE 10(11):e0141274, November 2015
  3. Ganesan et al, International Mobile-Health Intervention on Physical Activity, Sitting, and Weight:  The Stepathlon Cardiovascular Health Study.  JAmCollCardiol, 2016 May, 31:67(21):2453-63
  4. Tudor-Locke and Lutes, Why do pedometers work?: a reflection upon the factors related to successfully increasing physical activity.  Sports Med. 2009:39(12):981-93
Duncan MJ, Minatto G, Wright SL, Dose-response between pedometer assessed physical activity, functional fitness, and fatness in healthy adults ages 50-80 years.  Am J Hum Biol, 2016 Jun 20