Our society is obsessed with high intensity cardio training to the point where many people overlook how beneficial low intensity movement can be for both our bodies and minds. A couple of hours of HIIT cardio a week does not compensate for the 35+ hours some of us spend sitting the rest of the time. The simplest thing you could do to promote longevity and weight-loss is moving more throughout the day.
In study after study, movement has been shown to have a profound effect on the most common health issues (and causes of death) that plague our country, such as cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and obesity. In his book The Body, Bill Bryson analyzed these studies, finding “that being active for just eleven minutes a day after the age of 40 yielded 1.8 years of added life expectancy. Being active for an hour or more a day improved life expectancy by 4.2 years.”
Movement allows our bodily processes to work more optimally, enabling oxygen to flow more fluidly through the heart and blood stream in the cardiovascular system; and allows for the timelier and more efficient breakdown of food into the energy stores and nutrients that our bodies need in our digestive systems.
Movement also has a profoundly positive impact on our physical body and state of mind. By allowing our muscles, joints, and bones to move through a full range of motion and work against the natural forces of impact and gravity, movement keeps our physical bodies working the way they were meant to. And by providing an outlet from our daily stresses, movement has a positive impact on our mental health. Walking, especially in nature, has been shown to be stress reducing, while at the same time mood and productivity boosting.
But perhaps the most underrated benefit of daily movement is the calorie expenditure. Increased daily movement actually burns more calories than dedicated exercise. Therefore, keeping your daily activity up can help maintain your weight as you age, or lose weight if you are in a weight-loss phase. Not only will this non-exercise movement burn more calories than your dedicated gym time, it is also more sustainable because low intensity activity is less fatiguing on your system, and less likely to increase appetite.
So if you’re trying to lose weight or have been diagnosed with any form of cardiovascular
disease, try adding some extra movement to your day. One easy way to track this is with steps.
Aiming for 5-10K/steps a day is a phenomenal goal. If you’re currently lower than that, or don’t want to count steps, try just increasing your movement slowly over time, adding 1K steps, or a 5-15 minute walk, per day until that becomes your norm, then increasing again. Remember, small
changes add up to big ones over time, so take it one step (literally!) at a time.
If you need some motivation to increase those steps, think of this statistic: recent studies have shown that with each 1K steps per day increasing up to ~11,500, there is less chance of mortality from all causes by 22%.