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Step Up!

Wellness pillar discussed in this article: STEP “Walking is the best medicine.”- Hippocrates Recently, somebody who could see me through my kitchen window asked me if I was on a step program. At first I thought he was referring to the 12-steps of Alcoholics Anonymous and wondered how he came to that conclusion, but soon realized that he'd seen my daily walking regimen. Walking has become so natural to me that I think of it as a lifestyle rather than a step program. I wasn’t always a walker. Other than the time I spent working out, most of the day and all of the evening I remained seated. But when sitting became the new smoking, walking became my new breathing. What’s remarkable about the benefits of walking is that you don’t have to take a large dose to get a hit of healthy. When you sit for long stretches of time, your mind and body interpret your behavior as a danger sign and begin to power down. Physical activity is a signal that all is well. When you stand up after sitting, your mind and body awaken, and when you start moving, you begin to recharge. You don’t have to go far to get a mental and physical boost from walking. Ever wondered where the 10,000 step goal came from? Here’s where:

10,000 steps is an arbitrary target based on the similarity between the Japanese character for 10,000 and a person walking. It was used in Japan in the1960s to market a manpo-kei — a 10,000 steps meter — but has no grounding in science. Recent research suggests that you can maximize your health gains well before you reach 10,000 steps. Optimal benefits for those under 60 are reached at 8,000 to 10,000 steps, and at 6,000 to 8,000 if you’re over 60. According to the Mayo Clinic, the average American walks between 3,000 and 4,000 steps per day or 1.5 to 2 miles. Most of us are in need of a step up. If you’re looking for tips to add steps to your day, you’ve come to the right place. I can tally up steps just about anywhere. The key is to set up cues to walk. If I “fill-in-the-BLANK,“ then I walk. If I eat a meal, then I walk. This is my top tip. You can add steps to your day and years to your life if you go for a short walk after every meal. All it takes is a few minutes of walking for your muscles to sop up glucose and prevent the spikes in blood sugar that over time can be harmful to the health of your kidneys, nerves, eyes and heart. If I talk, then I walk. Walking while talking on the phone will make you sound more energetic, plus you will barely notice the steps you’re taking. A call to or from my sister is good for at least 5,000 steps. The benefits of walking meetings are celebrated in a viral Nilofer Merchant TED Talk that you can watch while walking. If I need a boost of creativity, then I walk. “When my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow,” said Henry David Thoreau back in the 19th century. A few years ago Stanford scientists finally caught up with Thoreau when they discovered subjects generated more creative ideas when they were walking than when they remained seated. Walk when you’re looking for an outside-the-box solution to a problem. Pose a question to yourself, go for a walk, and expect flashes of brilliance as your feet fuel your brain. If I go to the airport, then I walk. The airport is one of my favorite places to walk. It’s a habit I share with the author David Sedaris who walks upwards of 60,000 steps per day (he’d call my daily 20 to 30K lazy). Sedaris used to spend his airport time seated in the waiting area sizing up his fellow travellers, guessing who would die first and of what. Now he paces the airport. You can visit other gates to cultivate gate envy at the Barcelona departure area, or superiority at the Newark gate. You can watch people drinking beer at 10am wondering if their body clocks, set in Athens, think it’s happy hour or if they’re simply preparing to cause a disturbance on your flight. Your walkabout may take you to the duty free shop where you can douse yourself in every available fragrance and trigger the person who was drinking before your flight. If I read a book, then I walk. I have a library on my phone and have read countless books while walking in circles around my kitchen. I’m so accustomed to the alertness that I feel while reading and walking, that if I try to read a book when I’m sitting, I’m immediately overcome by a wave of drowsiness conditioned by my routine of reading in bed to help me fall asleep. If I write, then I walk. Every 5-Minute Recharge is researched, written, and edited while walking. My dual challenge for you is 1) to interrupt a single cycle of sitting today with some form of activity, even if it’s only to stand and stretch, and 2) take one of the above “if-then” statements for a walk. You don’t have to walk far to make strides in improving your wellbeing. The wellness return on your walking investment is greatest as you move from 3,000 to 4,000 or 4,000 to 5,000 steps per day. Think of it this way: “A journey of a thousand steps is just fifty times around my kitchen.”

Get Fully Charged on Stepping

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