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One Small Change

Could You Actually Be Sedentary?

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I typically work from 5 a.m. to 11 a.m., sitting in front of a computer, typing out drivel like this. Then I exercise for 60 to 90 minutes. After a quick lunch, I’m back at my desk, where I’ll stay for the rest of the day. In the evening, I relax by watching a movie or going out to eat. (That, incidentally, is the life of a freelance writer in 60 words or less, minus an outing to cash the very occasional checks. But I digress….)

Because I exercise regularly, I always thought I was in excellent shape. But the other day I read an article called “The Evolving Definition of Sedentary” written by researchers in the department of exercise science at the University of South Carolina. They compared the exercise and activity levels of two hypothetical women. The first, because she fails to meet the recommended level of 30 minutes or more per day of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity, is labeled sedentary. The second, because she engages in one hour of moderate-to-vigorous activity daily, is labeled active.

Now here’s where things get interesting and even a little frightening if you have a job and/or lifestyle like mine.

The researchers point out that if the “sedentary” woman does light activity (slow walking, cooking, cleaning….) for 75 percent of the day, while her “active” counterpart leaves the gym and essentially does nothing (sit, Google, er, write) for an equivalent amount of time, the former will actually expend about 10 percent more energy on a daily basis. And if you equate energy expenditure with staying fit, healthy and lean, then maybe I better stop feeling so smug.

This example shows that you need to look at your entire lifestyle when it comes to issues of fitness and health. (Plus, as the authors point out, it underscores a potential weakness in studies based solely on self-reported exercise times.) Like many people, I’ve put my exercise in a box. I’ve pushed it into a corner of my life, and I sweat dutifully there. But outside of that box, am I really any different from all those grandmothers in housecoats watching QVC from their couch? Is the 12 hours or so per day that I spend sitting in front of a computer or TV undoing what I’ve accomplished in the gym? In the big scheme of things, am I sedentary?

All this is a rather long-winded introduction to the one small change I’ll be making in my life this month. I’ll be attempting to transform exercise into activity, to make it something that’s integral to my life rather than separate from it. Indeed, evidence is mounting, as this article suggests, that “the accumulation of activity throughout the day,” or “lifestyle activity” as it’s called, is really the best workout of all. It eliminates the stress of squeezing exercise into an already jam-packed day, and it eases the challenge and expense of continually coming up with new workouts and fancy equipment to keep us motivated. In last month’s blog I examined the trend of eating more naturally. Perhaps it’s time we started moving more naturally, too.

Despite how simple this may sound, how do you actually go about doing it? The first step is becoming more aware of how active you are outside of the gym or your exercise box. And the easiest way to do that is by wearing a pedometer. In fact, it’s probably the simplest, least expensive and smallest change you can make fitness-wise. So that’s what I’ll be doing 24/7 for the next 31 days.

Can a device the size of a matchbook make me fitter and healthier? Can an electronic gizmo that I normally associate with mall-walkers and water bottles filled with Metamucil, help me—and you?

If you’re intrigued, get up from behind that computer, go buy yourself a pedometer, and let's see what happens.

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About The Author

Joe Kita – Joe Kita is a noted writer, editor, motivational speaker and teacher. He authors the blog "One Small Change" for CorePerformance.com.

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Tags: Outdoor Recreation, Energy, Health, Leisure Time, Walking, Weight Loss

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