Move closer to fitness just by stepping up your daily routine
We know we need to get moving.
After all, some 61% of adults in this country are overweight, according to the Surgeon General, and some 300,000 deaths a year are linked to obesity. The National Academy of Sciences has recommended that we get an hour of physical activity every day to lose weight (30 minutes for maintenance). The Centers for Disease Control and other organizations say we need to exercise for at least 30 minutes, several days a week.
But we just can't seem to get ourselves in gear.
"Where we are as America right now is on the couch," said Shellie Pfohl, executive director of Be Active North Carolina, a program that promotes exercise in that state.
Something has to change, health officials and educators say. Some think the key is to make exercise so easy that we barely notice we're doing it -- as easy as adding extra steps to our daily routines.
"The average person is gaining one to two pounds a year," says James O. Hill, PhD, director of the Center for Human Nutrition at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver. Hill believes the reason most Americans aren't getting any healthier is because they're trying to change their habits so dramatically that it sets them up for failure.
"We've been asking people to make big changes," like cleaning out the cupboards and replacing them with healthy foods or joining a health club, he tells WebMD. "People can't do that. Big changes don't fit their lifestyle."
Led by health educators like Hill and Pfohl, step-counting programs are sprouting up around the country. The way these programs work is simple: Buy a pedometer (available for $25 to $35) to track the number of steps you take in a day; wear the pager-sized device from morning to bedtime for three days, logging your steps at the end of each day; then figure out how many steps you're averaging per day, and work to increase that amount.
The pedometer makes people aware of exactly how much activity they're getting, says Pfohl. Her agency has an online walking program called Active Steps, in which participants can log their daily steps, receive weekly tips, and get feedback from other members.