I’ve written about a lot of healthy habits in the past. Most of them were probably pretty obvious, some of them maybe not so much. Today I want to talk about what might be the most obvious healthy habit of all. You need to move more.
“But Coach Stevo, I work out!”
I said, “move more,” not, “train more.” Training is what you are doing when you are wearing gym shorts, sweating, and holding iron in your hands. Training is intense and goal-oriented. This isn’t about training. When I say “move more,” I mean just that: you need to pry yourself off your couch or desk chair and just move your body as much as you can, every damn day.
Life is Moving
Humans are built to move. Our upright posture and bi-pedal movement makes us unique amongst the Great Apes. Based on our other unique human traits, especially lack of body hair and resulting awesome thermoregulation, some scientists have theorized that the first hunting method humans used was just running down our prey until they overheated and died. Evolution aside, the preponderance of scientific evidence points to movement, especially walking, being pretty much the most awesome thing we can do with our day. Walking reduces the probability of cancer, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, anxiety and depression. Walking also increases bone health, especially strengthening the hip bone (the one you’ll break when you fall in the tub), lowers LDL cholesterol, and raises HDL cholesterol. Studies have found that walking can also prevent dementia and Alzheimer's. To top it off, some of these studies controlled for BMI and exercise. The positive correlation of movement to health was seen in skinny people and obese people. Gym rats and muscle-phobes. The more we move, the longer and better we live.
Death is When You Stop
On the flip side, not moving also has an independent pathology. Men who spend more than 6 hours a day sitting have a death rate 20% higher than those that sit less than three hours a day. Women fared even worse with a 40% higher death rate. And once again, that’s after controlling for exercise and BMI. The evidence shows pretty clearly that it doesn’t matter how much you train, if you spend all the other hours of you week on your ass you will probably die sooner than if you got up and moved around more. But not-moving is also co-morbid. The less you move, the less calories you burn and, assuming you eat the same amount, the fatter you get. But it’s even worse than that because we aren’t eating the same amounts. Women consume 335 more calories and men eat 168 calories more per day than they did in 1971. And in 2009, the average American only spent 2.4 hours per day bearing his or her own weight. The fix is in and the only thing saving us is $15 billion in statins.
NEAT Tricks to Move More.
Scare tactics aside, we all know we feel better when we move around more. You take a walk to clear you head. You trek to the beach on the weekend. Maybe you stand up from your desk and stretch every now and then. Put it all together and this stuff really adds up. Dr. James Levine has popularized the research into Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis, or NEAT. This is all the calories you use to move you throughout your day. Basically, everything that isn’t keeping your breathing, conscious, and it doesn’t include exercising. For active people NEAT is anywhere from 1,500 -2,400 kcal per day. That’s huge! That’s the energy equivalent of 3-5lbs of fat per week and way more than you’ll burn with exercise. But how can you maximize your NEAT?
- Get a pedometer: they cost $6, come in every color of the rainbow, and will blow our mind. Every day try and make the number go up. You’re shooting for 10,000 steps.
- Set an alarm: Set an alarm to beep every hour of your work day. When it goes off, stand up and walk around a little. Maybe stretch your pecs and hip flexors a little, too.
- Drink more water: Constant trips to the bathroom have a funny way of replacing that annoying alarm and providing you with an excuse to walk around and do stuff,
- Grease the Groove: There are a handful of exercises that I try to improve on every day using the GTG method. This means that 10 times a day or so, I bang out 1/2 my max in a handful of exercises. Because it’s super low intensity I don’t break a sweat, can do them all in street clothes, and get better at them without messing with my recovery and all while contributing to my NEAT. So pick something easy like push ups or pull ups, and do a handful every time you have to use the bathroom from all that water you’re drinking.
- Dump your default: When I got a roomate, he brought a sofa that replaced my favorite sitting area. His sofa made my butt sweat, so I couln't sit for more than a few minutes without getting very uncofortable. Having a favorite chair or spot on the sofa means that you spend a lot more time there. I still sit down, but I try to move to a new place or position every few minutes. That way, I am at least adding to the movement that I do between sitting.