Monday, October 11, 2010

Car Culture Hurts More than Environment

For this week in duh, we have a study demonstrating that Americans take the fewest steps per day in comparison to other industrialized nations.

Americans averaged 5,117 steps per day, nearly half as many as Australians (averaging 9,695 steps) and far fewer than both the Swiss (9,650) and Japanese (7,168). Unsurprisingly, the US has the highest percentage of obese adults (34 percent), compared to 16 percent in Australia, eight percent in Switzerland, and three percent in Japan.

Below are some tips from FitSugar on how to increase your overall steps per day, but let me say that individual efforts are important, but even more so are structural efforts--and that takes the commitment of a society or at least a political majority. We need more walkable cities and small towns, more public transportation and smart growth or regrowth to get people moving. Our health problems are intricately related to how sedentary we are as a nation and adding to a little by little everyday approach to integrating health and reasonable movement is key to achieving a better balance. The kind of grueling workouts that they do on the Biggest Loser aren't necessary if we could integrate movement into our everyday lives and make a social commitment to real food. I'm not saying everyone would be skinny, but healthier, yes.

Here's FitSugar's tips:

  • Park in the last row at the mall, grocery store, or any other place with a huge parking lot. You don't have to park in parking lot Siberia, but parking just 10 spaces back gives you an extra 70- to 80-foot walk. That's as many as 32 extra steps in each direction in and out of the store.
  • Take the stairs, not the escalator. If your commute involves a stair vs. escalator choice, take the stairs. If it's an especially long set of stairs (mine involves one of these), vow to split the difference and at least walk up the moving escalator.
  • Instead of sending an email, IM, or other piece of ecommunication, get up and walk to a co-worker's desk. If you're worried about distracting or surprising her with an unsolicited walk-by, email or IM her to ask if you can come by. Then walk over.
  • On a sunny day, take a 15-minute walk during the workday. Even if you're an eat-your-lunch-at-your-desk kind of gal, take 15 to clear your head, enjoy the sun, and fit in some extra steps. At a brisk clip, you could fit in a mile of walking in those 15 minutes — that's 2,000 steps added to your daily allowance.
  • Pace. Steps count even if you're not going anywhere. On a long evening phone call at home? Walk up and down the hallway when you talk. Waiting for a table at a restaurant? Fit in a mini-walk while you're waiting for the hostess to call your name.

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