Zorba Paster: Stand Up And Increase Steps For Your Health

Getting More Movement Could Take Down The 'COVID 20,' And Save Your Life

seven students run closely together on a sidewalk while wearing masks
People wear face masks as they run Thursday, Oct. 1, 2020, at UW-Stevens Point. Angela Major/WPR

I know I talk about exercise a lot, maybe because it’s something I’m allergic to.

OK, I’m not really allergic to exercise. When it comes to hiking, skiing, kayaking, walking the dog — I’m there. I’m right up front.

But when it comes to the treadmill or elliptical or calisthenics, I have to make myself do it, to find the time. But, in fact, the time is already there. I just put it off.

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During these months of COVID-19, when many have picked up the “COVID 20” — those 20 pounds or so that COVID has put on the belly or butt — it’s time to step up to the plate and figure out what you might do to take it off and make life better.

And what better time than now? Look, we’re going into the winter, the dark tunnel of no light. I mean, there’s light, but not the light of the summer.

When it’s 5 p.m. in the summer, I feel like I’ve just started my day. I’m back from the office ready to hit the garden or walk the dog. Now that it’s winter, well, I’m just ready to say, “Gosh, it’s only 7 p.m., I feel like it’s 10 p.m., I’m ready to sleep.”

That’s why I bought a new step counter. I looked all around and bought the FitBit Charge 3. I went to Consumer Reports and liked what they said — long battery life, reliable, waterproof, all of those good things. I did it so I could monitor my steps.

But why bother? Well, because it will help change my behavior. And doing the same could change your behavior.

Why is that important? For one thing, you might lose weight. That’s important to nearly everyone in Wisconsin. But there is more and more research, not only about steps, but also standing.

Steps first. The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey follows what people eat and how they exercise. From 2003 to 2006, they looked at 5,000 men and women, 40 years and older, who wore hip accelerometers. It’s a device that’s a step above a step counter, such as a FitBit.

They measured people over a seven-day period for at least 10 hours a day. They wanted to see just what steps did for everyone, so they controlled for smoking, alcohol intake and whether they had chronic conditions such as diabetes or heart disease.

The results were astounding. Folks who took 8,000 to 12,000 steps a day had one-tenth the mortality of those who took less than 4,000 steps a day. From what? Something called all-cause mortality — anything that causes you to die, from cancer to heart disease from COPD to diabetes to accidental falls.

The steppers lived longer — much longer. And how fast they stepped, running or jogging, didn’t seem to matter at all. It was only steps that counted.

I find this rather mind boggling and hard to believe, but those numbers, along with others, show just how important moving is.

This comes on the back of another study that looked at how often you don’t sit, or how often you stand and walk or stand and run — you aren’t just on your derrière.

That study came from the University of California-San Diego School of Medicine, where the research team observed activity levels of nearly 6,000 American women, ages 63 to 97, in the Women’s Health Initiative.

The folks wore the same devices, but researchers analyzed for data, looking at everything that was “non-sitting.” That included standing at a desk, working as a cashier in a store, bird watching, and more.

They found that the folks who spent the most time standing or moving lived 37 percent longer. The highest group stood for 90 minutes or more per day, but even those who stood 30 minutes a day saw benefits.

There’s a very interesting bottom line: We sit too much — way, way, way too much. And with COVID-19, we sit even more than ever.

My spin: I feel the “COVID cloud” over my head. I can’t see my friends, can’t go out to restaurants, shows, museums, movies, hardly anywhere. It’s more than insulating; it’s not good for our health.

If you want to make your body healthier now, it means standing up, moving around your home and going for a walk when the weather allows. It certainly means that getting off your butt will do more than take off calories — it will save your life. Stay well.