Core Client Habit: Walk 11,500 Steps Per Day

Question: Did you walk 11,500 steps today?
How To Know You’ve Done This: Use a step tracker to measure walking 11,500 steps today.

Imagine for a moment you are an alien. You and your star-fleet of extraterrestrial foreigners have arrived back at planet earth to see how the earthlings are doing since your last visit 5,000 years ago. From the stories you’ve heard, earth is a beautiful place. The people move often, they live from food that grows in the ground, and they spend ample time in community.

 

Upon arriving, you and your alien clan are flabbergasted. Earth’s inhabitants live a perplexing existence. The humans seem to live without purpose, resolving instead to constantly seek short-term gratification. They seek comfort above all else, yet this very comfort is what ends up hitting them with a chronic disease which makes them VERY uncomfortable in the end. To find solace from the tiresome effects of gravity, the humans sit slouched in chairs all day long. Eventually their sitting leads to pain and discomfort for a body that is adapted to being stuck in a poor position. They use glowing screens to stimulate their eyes and minds for distraction and escape numbing their minds from the worries of the day. They eat food which is easy to consume and gratifying instead of food which nourishes their bodies and communicates well with their genetic code. Instead of climbing stairs or walking to get to a destination, they move about in warm little boxes (cars, planes, and elevators) being effortlessly whisked along to wherever they please. Yet, these same humans spend time each week running on a revolving mat or lifting things up and down repeatedly in a gym for no apparent reason. 

 

Humans were created to wake up with the sun, spend the day moving, hunting, gathering, and playing. Our bodies are designed to run on minimal fuel for long periods of time and still be able to move continuously. 

 

Today, Americans have an abundance of food. They typically eat too much and move very little. American’s sit more today than ever before and this number rises each year. Teenagers, who should be the most active, spend over half of their day seated. Increased television, phone, and personal computer consumption is to blame for the rise in sitting time.  

 

We were made to move. But most people don’t. The average American sits in their chair at breakfast, sits on the way to work, sits at work, sits on the ride home, and then sits at home and watches Netflix at night. 

 

So what’s wrong with sitting? To quote Kelly Starrett, the author of Deskbound, “Recent studies show that too much sitting contributes to a host of diseases—from obesity and diabetes to cancer and depression—and literally shortens your life. The facts are in: your chair is your enemy, and it is murdering your body.”

 

Sitting confines our body to a specific position for however long we are sitting. And the body “adapts”. Muscles shorten, the respiratory system learns to breathe in a compensatory sitting pattern, and muscles atrophy. Over time, with weakened muscles, poor breathing, and a shoddy immune system, our genetic code changes to express disease instead of health. This is why sitting is being called the new smoking. 

 

We can all probably agree that the average, overweight, sedentary American is unhealthy. We can all agree that most people need to move more and eat less toxic food. 

 

But what about the exercising American? Does exercise undo the effects of sitting?

 

Our alien visitor would be befuddled at our conflicting behavior. Why would a creature that seeks comfort all day long punish itself with cardiovascular exercise and weight training? You’d say it’s all in the name of health. 

 

Think of the person who heads out of their house before dawn to attend a 5:00am spin class, intense bootcamp, or to go for a jog. They punish themselves for 45-90 minutes, sweating their brains out in the name of health and longevity.

 

Intense exercise compressed into a stressful life is a recipe for burn-out, nervous system breakdown, and weight loss plateaus. This is because sitting all day and then exercising at a moderately high pace for an hour or so is not how we’ve lived for 1000’s of years. Research shows that large amounts of sitting are not countered by a few hours a week of intense exercise. 

 

Pre-agricultural humans slept until the sun came up, and then they moved all day. It was necessary for survival. It’s been woven into our DNA to become something our bodies crave and need to be healthy. Without consistent and varied movement, chronic disease and the loss of independence and mobility are inevitable. 

 

But, I Have To Work And Drive And Stuff

Obviously you need to work. A stand-up desk is a good place to start. We have them in all of our staff offices at Village and they rock. But for some people, this may not be a reality. Stand-up desks can be a tough sell for folks who are used to sitting while they do their work.  We’ve heard of some folks having success with a treadmill desk, but again, this may not be possible. 

 

At the end of the day, you HAVE to find a way to make it happen. You need to move at a low level throughout the entire day. Instead of being a victim of your circumstances, take charge of your health destiny and implement some of the suggestions we lay out below. 

Why 11,500 Steps?

To be maximally healthy, find ways to move at a low level all day long. This is what we call a “principle”. 

 

When we set out to create our Core Client Habits, we wanted all of them to be actionable and as specific as possible. We wanted to make these habits rules that you could say “yup, I did that today.” So we knew we couldn’t have a habit like “Move A Lot” because it isn’t specific enough. 

 

So we’ve set 11,500 steps as the minimum number of steps a human should take each day. It’s just shy of 6 miles. 

 

It’s a lot! Since you’re reading this, I’m sure you desire to have a lifestyle which is countercultural. And by adding 1500 steps to the common recommended 10,000, you shall be just ahead of the activity “standards” in our culture! 

But What About Cardio?

 

The term “cardio” to many of our clients conjures up suffer-sessions on a treadmill while trying to distract oneself with the news. 

 

Now, if you love running on the treadmill at a high intensity for long periods and watching the news, be our guest! But don’t do it in the name of health. 

 

There is a prevailing misconception in the health world today. Namely that running, doing spin class, or intense bootcamps are the best way to lose weight and get healthy. 

 

Here is the problem: The average runner or cycling class enthusiast spends most of their exercise time with their heart rate above the aerobic maximum (180-age). The moment you cross the aerobic max, you enter what is known in the exercise physiology world as the black hole. For a 50 year old, you would take 180 and subtract your age to be left with a maximum aerobic heart rate of 130. Use a chest-strap or wrist-based heart rate monitor to track your heart rate the next time you go out for a run.  

 

What’s wrong with the Black Hole? Exercising above the aerobic maximum for extended periods of time (more than a few minutes) is extremely stressful for the human body.  When you slog away across the pavement on your afternoon run, your body releases a slew of chemicals and hormones to deal with what it perceives as a very threatening situation. This begets the question, why would the human body perceive something that's supposed to be healthy as a threat? The reason is because exercising like this is counter to how our bodies have moved for millennia. The human body is used to constant movement, lifting heavy things, and sprinting once in awhile. his idea was popularized by Mark Sisson in his book The Primal blueprint.

 

Instead of Cardio, Rest Well

If you understand how to rest well, you will be healthy.  The way we exercise, eat, and live determines how we will rest. If our exercise is constantly throwing us into a state of fight-or-flight and stress,  will be unable to rest well. in between exercise sessions, our body should be at work becoming stronger and healthier instead of trying to mitigate the damage from our exercise sessions. 

Practical Tips

1. Step Count 

Figure out where your extra steps will come from in the day. Is it a walk to work and back? Is it the evening walk with the family? Whatever it takes, make it happen!

 

2. Take movement Breaks

The negative effects of sitting and working on a computer can be mitigated significantly by getting up and walking through the day. Go for a stroll as you take phone calls, walk the stairs after completing tasks and just move!

 

3. Get A Standup Desk 

Start with 10 minutes a day and add a bit each day until your whole day is standing. 

 

4. Mobility Routine

Keep your foam rollers and lacrosse balls handy. Get 10 minutes in twice a day. That’s 140 minutes of mobility work each week! Wowza!

 

5. Take Active Vacations

Hike, bike, and paddleboard your way to some good family time. 

 

6. Daily Movement

Exercise isn’t about calories burned, but about movement. It’s imperative now to discover ways to simply move around more—even if only for brief periods—throughout your day. Make it official personal policy to take stairs instead of elevators, park at the furthest spot in parking lots instead of always angling for a closer one, and generally prioritize pedestrian movement over sedentary options. Here are several tips to add more movement to your daily routine:

 

7. Bookend Strolls

The idea of a quick morning walk to start the day and an evening walk to end it is beautiful. Research shows the morning sun is essential for a good night of sleep. Low level movement increases blood flow, flushes toxins, and gets our body ready to tackle the day.

 

Then, after dinner, get out again. This walk will aide digestion, facilitate good sleep, and help you to think clearly in the evening. 

 

8. Big Weekend Movement

So maybe you’re life is jam-packed. You can fit a 30 minute walk in the AM, you can stand a bit more during the day, you start taking meetings/phone calls and walking, but you simply don’t have the ability to make the 11,500 step goal most days. 

 

Remember that they journey is about progress and not perfection. Then, set out to get some big movement each weekend day. Maybe a family hike on Saturday, a big walk on Sunday, a trip to Disneyland, maybe? You could even ride a bike at a low level and count it. 

1  "Trends in Sedentary Behavior Among the US Population ...." https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2731178. Accessed 5 Nov. 2019.

2  "Deskbound: Standing Up to a Sitting World (1): Kelly Starrett ...." https://www.amazon.com/Deskbound-Standing-Up-Sitting-World/dp/1628600586. Accessed 5 Nov. 2019.

3  "Sitting time and all-cause mortality risk in 222 497 Australian ...." https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22450936. Accessed 8 Nov. 2019.