Walk This Way!

walk-this-wayI like smart people.  Folks that spend years and years becoming expert in their chosen field.  It’s especially appealing if they are, what I call, Switzerland, i.e. neutral. If they don’t have a book to sell, a product to push, or an axe to grind then I find it all the more impressive.

Catrine Tudor-Locke is Switzerland.

Dr. Tudor-Locke is a researcher at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton-Rouge.  She is recognized internationally as an exercise expert….specifically walking.  Dr. Tudor-Locke has published over 180 scientific papers in her career (that’s a ton!) but what I like most is her practical approach to physical activity.  She clearly understands how our environment influences our behavior and offers simple, targeted solutions for overcoming the challenges of today’s sedentary world.

Let’s start with the facts.  The average American takes 5,117 steps per day. Obviously the odds are you are not average.  If you don’t know how many steps you take in a day I highly recommend you get a pedometer or accelerometer and start getting a feel for what your average is.  There are approximately 2,000 steps per mile so most of us are covering just over 2.5 miles per day.  Of interest, folks in Colorado average 6,500 steps a day and residents of Tennessee and Arkansas average 4,500.  By comparison, a 2004 study of 98 Amish in Ottawa, Canada found that the women in their community averaged about 14,000 steps per day and the men over 18,000.  Of note, their rates of overweight and obesity were a fraction of what we see in America.

So how many steps do we need to get a return on our investment?  Often you hear the magic number of 10,000 steps per day.  That’s almost double what most Americans are currently getting.

Dr. Tudor-Locke has a different take.  Her total steps recommendation is less but she also addresses intensity since walking briskly confers more benefit than just a “window shopping” pace.

Here’s Dr. Tudor-Locke’s Walking Recipe:

  • Avoid less than 5,000 steps/day
  • Strive for at least 7,500 steps/day
  • At least 3,000 of those steps (representing at least 30 minutes) should be taken at a cadence of >100 steps/minute.

Dr. Tudor-Locke also recommends we sit less.  Many Americans spend the majority of their waking hours sitting in front of a screen, at both work and home, and there is a growing body of evidence indicating that’s a significant problem.  A study last year in the Archives of Internal Medicine indicated that 10 hours of sitting is as harmful as 30 minutes of exercise is beneficial. If your job requires you so sit for most of the day try setting the alarm on your phone to prompt you every hour to get up and take a short little walk break.  There are many benefits to this, not the least of which is it will help clear your head and improve what’s known as “attention to task.”

Bottom line is we need to sit less and move more….and now, thanks to smart people like Dr. Tudor-Locke, we know exactly how much more.