Being physically active when your job isn’t

Changes to our lifestyle/habits/metabolism as we age

As if it isn’t tough enough that as we get older, our metabolisms slow down (and you might have noticed the appetite takes a while to register that!), but lifestyle changes, health problems and career choices/changes will have a massive impact on activity levels. If you’re one of those lucky mortals individuals for whom eating three huge meals a day with sizeable high-energy snacks in between is a life-or-death need, you struggle to put/keep weight on, and missing a meal means you’re 3lbs lighter the next day, you’re the rarer person right now. And I’m not trivialising just how much of a struggle it can be for those of you fortunate enough to be having that problem, I do understand. Trust me, I’m a dietician. I get it.

Activity levels in the modern age

Technology is making us lazier. We spend more time:

  • watching TV
  • sitting at PCs
  • writing emails
  • doing so many more things online than we used to by traipsing round the high street
  • documenting everything left, right and centre because of the litigation-crazy world we live in
  • on Xboxes and Playstations
  • on a mobile phone than we used to, say, 15 years ago (if you’re like me)

We’ve moved further away, in terms of physical activity, from our cave-dwelling ancestors.

My job is making me lazy

Being in the editing or writing business means lots of hours sitting down (unless you’ve been brave enough to invest in a standing desk) (eek!), not necessarily all in one long slog. No, if you’re sensible, you’ll be following all the de-stressing tips and advice out there, surrounding yourself with wonderful scents, reducing distraction with ambient noise, keeping hydrated with endless cups of weird and wonderful herbal tea (or coffee if you’re hardcore!) and making sure you take regular breaks every 20–30 minutes? Right? Wrong! Some of us might be doing that. I’m sure that most of us aren’t. I know I’m not. When I’ve got a pressing deadline, I keep slogging on, on a winning streak, thinking, ‘Yep, I’ll take a break in 10 minutes.’ Around 90 minutes later I check in, ‘Huh? Is that really the time?’ And that’s with social media notifications turned off!

What can you do to increase your activity?

It’s easy to become inactive – or even more inactive, working from the comfort of home, hours and hours at the screen. It’s not just about the inactivity, either – it’s the impact it has on your health. The NHS has suggested we undertake 150 minutes of moderate aerobic (= uses oxygen) activity a week to stay healthy. The 10,000-steps-a-day goal (that’s 10,000, not 1000!) is simple: it’s an easy number to remember; it’s walking, which is probably the simplest form of exercise; it will improve your health (cardiovascular stamina, blood lipid profile and calorie burn), your sleep and increase your metabolism. Lean tissue burns more energy than fat. Regular exercise builds lean tissue (muscle) and so more energy is burned – even at rest. Here’s the plain truth, though: 10,000 steps are not easily achieved with a sedentary lifestyle. It takes effort and discipline. Walking your child(ren) to school instead of the 5-minute drive, walking to the local shops instead of driving, and sometimes, making a conscious decision to go on a planned walk (of 40–50 minutes, ideally). The important thing is to incorporate these extra steps into your everyday routine. It’s no mean feat.

How do you measure 10,000 steps a day?

The world has gone crazy for fitness trackers, hasn’t it? Yes, they’ll monitor your steps, your sleep, breathing, pulse and God only knows what else. I’ve got an UPmove that clips onto the waistband, but a simple pedometer will do. Here’s the kind of thing my fitness tracker tells me:

Today's steps

Luckily, I’ve still got time today to achieve that 10,000-step goal.

Low steps

OK, so 2 days ago I worked pretty well all day and did little else. I never said I was the paradigm of health and fitness, did I?

The point is, we can all be more active. Increasing our walking steps is by far one of the easiest ways to do that. It does take conscious effort (not to mention, motivation) for most of us, but in the long term, your health – something most of us take for granted when we have it – will thank you for it.