Today seemed like the perfect day to talk about walking, since it’s perfect walking weather here in Ohio. When I first went out this morning, it was still dark. The wind was lovely and brisk – not quite a Mary Poppins carry-you-away-on-an-umbrella wind, but nearly a Winnie the Pooh blustery day. The wind has now been joined by a perfect autumn rain: not too warm, not too cold, not too heavy, just enough to bring up the smell of the falling, damp leaves from the massive oak tree next door.
Over the past ten years or so, I’ve included exercise in my regular activities. This hasn’t come easily to me – my favorite position is curled up under a blanket with a good book, not sweating to the oldies! Through trial and error I found cardio and weight training programs I could maintain in spite of myself, and I usually get in five days a week. I’m pretty proud of myself for that, and frequently a little surprised.
So when studies showed that exercising is great, but won’t make up for sitting all day at a desk, I was a little cranky. Apparently, lack of “nonexercise” activity is a separate risk factor for heart disease, as well as being really bad for the back and legs.* My goal is to be a full-time writer, and writers sit. When this information came out, there was a lot of talk about standing desks and standing while doing everything. From what I’ve read, it seems to work well for a lot of people. I have congenital lymphedema (swelling) in my legs, so static standing was not a potential solution for me.
I decided to walk.
I started trying to incorporate 10,000 steps a day into my fitness routine. This is harder than it sounds. Two problems cropped up: how to track my steps, and how to make the time.
For devices, I started with a simple pedometer. A decent one costs less than twenty dollars and will calculate steps, distance, and even calories burned. As long as I remembered to put it on, I got all the information I needed.
Then I migrated to a free smartphone app. The app runs in the background, works like a pedometer, and keeps track of all data, allowing you to see trends and patterns in your activity. Most pedometer apps turned off when my phone screen turned off. Walklogger was one app that did not. The biggest drawback to this app is that you have to remember to keep your phone on you at all times, and you have to be careful where you put it. If I put it in a shirt pocket it recorded steps inconsistently.
The data from this was fascinating. I work part time as a nurse, and I work twelve hour shifts. I found that even on my busiest days, the days where getting a bathroom break was difficult and a lunch break impossible, I didn’t reach 10,000 steps. I stood a lot, but I didn’t walk. And when I spent a day at home I was lucky to reach 5,000 steps. I needed a way to increase my steps throughout the day.
Enter the magic bracelet.
I now have a Jawbone Up24, which is basically a computerized pedometer on steroids. It’s a small bracelet that you wear 24/7, except when bathing or swimming. It records everything and syncs with your smartphone. It’s small and compact, and I don’t even notice I’m wearing it anymore.
The UP24 measures steps, distance, and calories burned. It tells what percentage of my goal I’m at. It records sleep and tells me how much deep and light sleep I get and how often I’m awake. It wakes me up in the morning with a silent alarm customized to my sleep pattern.
But here’s the kicker: it buzzes at me.
There is a feature called Idle Alert. It tells the bracelet to buzz whenever I sit for longer than I should. It can be set for anywhere from 15 minutes to two hours. I have mine set to alert me from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. when I sit for more than 15 minutes.
When the bracelet buzzes, I get up and take a walk around the block. My block is roughly 500 steps, so I do this about 3 times an hour for 7 hours. Each walk takes about 4 minutes, so I’m not losing big chunks of time. My total time expenditure is about an hour and a half, but it seems like less when it’s 4 minutes at a time.
The UP24 has been well worth the investment. It’s helped me find a nearly painless way to get in my nonexercise activity. I’ll be working on my sleep next!
I’m always looking for ways to improve my processes. Any suggestions for more efficient exercise, and “nonexercise,” would be greatly appreciated!
*Reference: Why Your Desk Job is Slowly Killing You