ARE YOU WALKING FAST ENOUGH?

ARE YOU WALKING FAST ENOUGH?

ARE YOU WALKING FAST ENOUGH?

 

 

by Colleen J. Sands

The number of steps per day you take is important – but how fast you take them matters, too. New research makes walking intensity easy to track.

The United States Federal Guidelines for Physical Activity advise reaching at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity per week. While minutes are a simple unit to track, the intensity of physical activity has previously been vaguely defined and difficult to track. One means of tracking physical activity intensity is using metabolic equivalents (METS), but this measure is difficult to communicate, and moreover, cannot be directly measured by the individuals. Given these limitations, the guidelines also offer the suggestion of using a perceived effort scale from 0-10, with 5 or 6 being moderate-intensity. However, this is highly subjective and may not be precisely linked with the physiological intensity of the activity. Therefore, many people are not aware whether they are meeting the guidelines recommendation of moderate intensity physical activity.

Current research from Dr. Catrine Tudor-Locke’s team in the Physical Activity and Health Lab at the University of Massachusetts Amherst is changing that. Dr. Tudor-Locke’s team is examining using cadence (the number of steps you take in a minute) as a variable for tracking physical activity intensity. Unlike METs or a scale from 0-10, cadence is easy to measure and scientifically supported. Phone apps and fitness watches that provide real-time cadence have emerged over the past few years and also show trends over time.

What’s the magic number?

Tudor-Locke’s current research demonstrates that for adults 21- 40 years old, walking at least 100 steps per minute is a reasonable rounded, evidence-based value for reaching moderate-intensity physical activity. To reach a vigorous intensity, aim for at least 130 steps per minute.

Walking is one of the most commonly reported means of physical activity, and is free and easily accessible for most people. Dr. Tudor-Locke’s team encourages walking as a straightforward means of meeting the national guidelines, and using cadence as a simple way to track your intensity.

About The Author

Colleen J. Sands is a Master’s student in the University of Massachusetts Amherst Kinesiology Department. She is advised by Dr. Catrine Tudor-Locke. Sands’ primary research interests are physical activity, walking and running gait, and associations with health outcomes. During her undergraduate tenure, Sands captained the University of Massachusetts Division-1 track & field team, and she continues to race competitively in distance running events.

THE TRANSFORMATIVE POWER OF WALKING

THE TRANSFORMATIVE POWER OF WALKING

THE TRANSFORMATIVE POWER OF WALKING

 

 

by Dan Rubinstein

Eight years ago, Canadian physician Dr. Mike Evans made a video that explored a simple pragmatic question: if somebody is sedentary for all but half an hour each day, what’s the most impactful thing they can do for their health in those remaining 30 minutes? The conclusion he reaches in 23 and ½ Hours, which has nearly six million views on YouTube, may surprise you. Evans, who has a big interest in preventative medicine, cites a series of studies and identifies a single powerful intervention that significantly diminishes pain and disability from arthritic knees, reduces the risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s, mitigates the symptoms of depression and anxiety, and generally improves one’s quality of life, among myriad other benefits.

“The medicine is exercise,” he says. “Mostly walking.”

This is not a message one hears frequently in our siloed medical system, or from the commercial industries that have developed around obesity, diabetes and heart disease, with the quest for cures often driven by studies financed by pharmaceutical companies. Moreover, funders who donate millions of dollars to hospitals frequently want to buy “fancy new machines,” says Evans, not support workaday initiatives to get people moving. “I would do a walking intervention before anything else. Programs that get people active give you more bang for your buck.”

An elemental part of who we are

Walking is arguably our most distinctive characteristic as a species. Humans are the only fully bipedal primate. Lacking strength and speed, this unique gait gave our ancestors stamina, and an evolutionary edge over other animals. University of British Columbia psychologist Liane Gabora believes that the development of creative thinking (another of our defining features) and bipedalism are distinctly connected. Walking is an elemental part of who we are. This is one of the reasons why, over the millennia, as we settled in cities and sat down in cars and at our desks, instead of exerting ourselves to secure food and shelter, we have become predisposed to so many diseases and ailments.

By using our bioelectrical, biochemical, respiratory, muscular, cardiovascular and skeletal systems in such a controlled manner, walking gives our bodies the workout they need to function optimally. This measured effort protects people from obesity, coronary disease, heart attacks, strokes and Type 2 diabetes, which is a leading cause of vision loss, kidney failure and limb amputation. Walking builds bone mass, strengthens the muscles in your arms and legs, and gives your joints better range of motion. It enhances your balance, preventing falls, and eases back pain. It lowers the risk of glaucoma by reducing intraocular pressure. Tests on mice have shown that brisk walking may slow the death of light-sensitive retinal cells by stimulating production of a protein called bdnf, a discovery that could help prevent macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness among the elderly.

Ours brains get a boost too. Walk for half an hour, five times a week, says an American educational alliance called Every Body Walk!, and the endorphins will ease stress, anger and confusion. Going on a stroll “with good company and in pleasant surroundings” can ward off depression and anxiety, counsels the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety.

Nature therapy and holistic health

Nature can also be a powerful tonic, and walking in the woods produces a kind of multiplier effect. A pioneering non-profit in the United States, Warrior Hike, sends veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who are suffering from PTSD on months-long through-hikes of the Appalachian Trail and other long-distance routes. “People have bad days,” says ex-Marine Sean Gobin, the program’s founder. “You’re dealing with your own struggles, the weather, the terrain. How you cope with that and interact with other people facilitates personal development. If you’re in a group, you try to help others when they’re down. That helps you regain a sense of camaraderie, that feeling of being on a mission, which gives you a sense of purpose again.”

Walking isn’t a magic-bullet solution to any particular problem. It leads to holistic health — including environmental, economic and social health — slowly, gradually, one step at a time. Which may be why Hippocrates called walking “man’s best medicine.”

The internet is flooded with academic papers that support this ancient aphorism. Rather than deconstruct the corporeal rewards of walking from head to toe, let’s focus on a survey study conducted in 2008. Two scientists from University College London did a meta-analysis of walking research published between 1970 and 2007 in English-language, peer-reviewed journals. They looked at almost 4,300 articles and concentrated on 18. These studies, which investigated the well-being and walking habits of about 460,000 people, lasted an average of 11.3 years. A comprehensive range of health characteristics and events were considered: age, smoking, alcohol use, heart attack, heart failure, coronary artery bypass surgery, stroke and death. The analysis, as summarized by Harvard Medical School, determined that walking “reduced the risk of cardiovascular events by 31 percent, and it cut the risk of dying during the study period by 32 percent. These benefits were equally robust in men and women. Protection was evident even at distances of just five-and-a-half miles per week and at a pace as casual as about two miles per hour.”

Overriding our own brains

So, why don’t we get up from the couch and go for these half-hour walks every day? According to Canadian psychologist Michael Vallis, our internal programming tells us to stay put.

Western society has “advanced” to the point where the brain’s operating system does not serve our best interests, says Vallis, who run the Behaviour Change Institute, which teaches healthcare providers how to promote healthy behaviour among their patients. To successfully adapt to our largely urban environment, we need to override three of the basic rules that govern our behaviour. To save calories, we are hardwired to choose the path of least resistance. This made sense when we were struggling to survive on the savannah. Today, it’s the reason we stand still on escalators and park close to the doors at the mall. Second, we are prisoners of the pleasure principle: avoid pain, seek pleasure. Our choices used to be “run or get eaten by a bear” and “eat some berries or starve.” Now we can sit on the La-Z-Boy gorging on jelly doughnuts without fear of being attacked by so much as a mosquito. Finally, we go for instant gratification. We watch TV while shoveling in potato chips, instead of asking, “How will I feel tomorrow if I take a walk today?”

About The Author

Dan Rubinstein is a National Magazine Award–winning writer and editor. He contributes to publications such as The Walrus, the Globe and Mail, The Economist and enRoute, and has edited magazines in Ontario and Alberta. He is also the author of Born to Walk: The Transformative Power of a Pedestrian Act (2015, ECW Press), which is available in English, French and Portuguese, as well as in audiobook and electronic versions. borntowalk.org

Also By The Author

The humble act of putting one foot in front of the other transcends age, geography, culture, and class, and is one of the most economical and environmentally responsible modes of transit. Yet with our modern fixation on speed, this healthy pedestrian activity has been largely left behind.

At a personal and professional crossroads, writer, editor, and obsessive walker Dan Rubinstein travelled throughout the U.S., U.K., and Canada to walk with people who saw the act not only as a form of transportation and recreation, but also as a path to a better world. There are no magic-bullet solutions to modern epidemics like obesity, anxiety, alienation, and climate change. But what if there is a simple way to take a step in the right direction? Combining fascinating reportage, eye-opening research, and Rubinstein’s own discoveries, Born to Walk explores how far this ancient habit can take us, how much repair is within range, and guarantees that you’ll never again take walking for granted. 

 

IS STANDING THE NEW SITTING?

IS STANDING THE NEW SITTING?

IS STANDING THE NEW SITTING ?

 

by Dr. Eric Söhngen

The introduction of height-adjustable desks in offices all over the world clearly reflects that there is a strong desire for health conscious work spaces. According to a 2017 survey by the Society for Human Resource Management, standing desks are the fastest growing benefits trend; 13% of employers provided or subsidised them in 2013 versus 44% in 2017.

So now the question becomes, can we cure this ‘sitting disease’ by elevating our desks? It would have been a shame if the solution had been this easy, and we had missed the corresponding health benefits over all these years. However, research has been done on the effects of the standing desk on our physiology, and the results have pointed towards some highly controversial issues.

 

Standing desk users are still largely inactive

One problem is that standing desks do not alleviate the detrimental effects on the metabolism, which are associated with inactivity. While not sitting, a standing person is still largely inactive. Many have altered their personal work environments in the effort to make a positive impact on their health, however, what they have gotten is an outright false sense of security that has not been backed by science.

The main issue with standing desks is connected to the very body position they force the user into. Standing for periods of time is unpleasant. Out of our own experience, we know that standing while waiting in a queue or behind a sales counter comes along with sensations of heaviness in the legs, back pain and generally leads to fatigue and even affects our mood.

Musculoskeletal issues related to standing

Maintaining proper posture while standing in order to avoid the pain sensations described above proves to be challenging for many. There is a simple reason for this. Our human anatomy and physiology is not optimised to facilitate such a posture for any extended period of time. After years of sitting, the body’s soft tissue and muscles have likely sustained considerable damage, resulting in relative weakness in the core and glute muscles, with consecutive lack of stabilisation and a forward tilted pelvis. Tight hip flexor muscles, which are often considerably shortened due to sitting, also contribute to a bad posture while standing. Same as in sitting, many people who stand tend to slouch and lean to one side, still relying rather loosely on soft tissue structures. The body easily comes off balance when standing, resulting in favouring one side or constant shifting forward and backward.

The posture typically seen in office workers using standing desks, is one where the arch in the lower back is exaggerated, resulting in compression of intervertebral disk spaces and often resulting in muscular pain. Lower back pain, therefore, is one of the most complaints that I have heard from patients using standing desks, which is somewhat ironic as many have sought to use standing desks to alleviate these same ailments.

What about the rest of the body? Our posture in the middle and upper portions of the back are not considerably changed when comparing standing to sitting. A forward bended head and neck posture in conjunction with rounded shoulders often contribute to pain in that area and spinal degeneration issues over time.
Scientific studies have looked into the question of standing desk ergonomics. In a 2018 study, adult participants performed standing computer work to investigate possible changes in discomfort as well as cognitive function. After just two hours, most users complained of muscle fatigue, lower limb swelling and mental state deterioration, coupled with decreases in attention and reaction time (Baker et al., 2018).

Half of all height-adjustable desks are used as normal desks

The associated discomfort of height-adjustable desks often results in them not being used in the intended way. A large study performed in Germany looked at this question in more detail. Almost 700 participants were interviewed regarding their usage of a sit-to-stand desk. Out of the study population, 16% had access to such a desk, similar to the range of other countries. Surprisingly, only half of these individuals utilised the standing functionality of the desk, the remaining half had stopped standing and instead lowered it back to a height that allows usage with a conventional chair (Wallmann-Sperlich et al., 2017).

Having access to a standing desk also appears to fail in substantially decreasing overall sitting time, likely due to a compensation with more time spent inactive during leisure time. A systematic review that compared the results from 21 different trials, published in the Cochrane Registry in 2016, concluded that the availability of standing desks only leads to a reduction of overall sitting time of around 30 minutes to two hours (Shrestha et al., 2016).

Standing doesn’t burn more calories than sitting

This finding has greater implications when considering that a motivation for many users when starting to use a standing desk is the desire to lose body weight. To evaluate the potential a standing desk can contribute to such weight loss goals, it is interesting to look at an analysis of energy expenditure in sitting versus standing. This question has been addressed in numerous studies in the past. A large review published in Circulation in 2016 compared findings of 44 studies with more than 1,000 participants. What they found is that the mean difference in energy expenditure between sitting and standing was only 0.15kcal/min. This means, that if a user of a standing desk would theoretically use the desk exclusively for six hours per day nonstop, it would equate to around 50 additional burned calories (Saeidifard et al., 2016). An apple has around 100 calories, which means that an attempt to lose weight by using a standing desk is little more than wishful thinking.

Standing at work for prolonged hours increases the risk for heart disease

The question remains whether standing desks are actually good for our cardiac health or not. The predominant association is that standing workstations are measures to promote health in work environments. The existence of subsidised programs by health insurance companies also indicates their overall positive health benefits. However, looking into this further, we find that the latest research actually points in the opposite direction.

Standing for extended periods of time might actually cause more harm than good. A study from Canada compared standing and sitting at work across 7,000 workers; researchers reviewed the employees’ healthcare records and looked for associations of occupational standing, sitting and cases of heart disease over the past 12 years. At the beginning of the study period, all of the people were free of heart disease. The study found that those who had to stand at their workplace had twice the risk of heart disease, compared to those who spent their time predominantly seated at work. Possible falsifying factors such as other health, sociodemographic, educational and work variables were excluded.

While not entirely understood, the underlying reasons are likely the result of a combination of too much blood pooling in the legs with an associated increase of pressure in the veins and an increase of oxidative stress in blood vessels. Over an extended period of time, this permanent stress on the vessel walls could explain the paradoxically increased risk for heart disease in those who stand more (Smith et al., 2017). And the heart doesn’t appear to be the only organ that suffers from prolonged standing at work. Early studies have indicated that serious pregnancy related risks, such as preterm births and spontaneous abortions could also be a result (McCulloch et al., 2002, Waters et al, 2015).

About The Author

Eric Soehngen, MD, PhD is a board-certified senior Physician and the Founder and CEO of WALKOLUTION – the maker of the medical based workplace system, that lets users walk while working.

WALKOLUTION applies latest scientific findings to reshape the future of work and corporate health.

 

Also By The Author

Death by Sitting explains in a comprehensible and accessible format, with scientific accuracy exactly how sitting has become “the new smoking”. Read why we need a movement revolution.

Available in Print and Digital.

 

 

References

Baker, Richelle, et al. “A detailed description of the short-term musculoskeletal and cognitive effects of prolonged standing for office computer work.” Ergonomics 61.7 (2018): 877-890.

McCulloch, John. “Health risks associated with prolonged standing.” Work 19.2 (2002): 201-205.

Saeidifard, Farzane, et al. “Difference of Energy Expenditure While Standing versus Sitting: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.” (2017): A20539-A20539.

Smith, Peter, et al. “The relationship between occupational standing and sitting and incident heart disease over a 12-year period in Ontario, Canada.” American journal of epidemiology 187.1 (2017): 27-33.

Wallmann-Sperlich, Birgit, et al. “Who uses height-adjustable desks?-Sociodemographic, health-related, and psycho-social variables of regular users.” International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 14.1 (2017): 26.

Waters, Thomas R., and Robert B. Dick. “Evidence of health risks associated with prolonged standing at work and intervention effectiveness.” Rehabilitation Nursing 40.3 (2015): 148-165.

 

 

Blog Template 2/2019

Blog Template 2/2019

YOUR HEART
DESIGNED TO
KEEP YOU
MOVING

 

With every beat, the heart sends a portion of blood through a range of blood vessels in order to nurture and fuel itself. As a powerful muscle in constant action, the heart has a steady demand for oxygen and nutrients.

Worse Than Smoking

How does a sedentary lifestyle contribute to this pathology? Why is sitting too much becoming even more dangerous to our cardiac health than smoking, as is often cited in current headlines?

A heart attack is the ultimate complication of a disease, which may often remain silent for years before revealing itself in a single, and sometimes deadly event. Heart disease remains the number one cause of deaths worldwide, accounting for more than 15 million deaths in 2015 alone. In comparison, road injuries killed 1.3 million people in the same year (WHO, 2017). According to the American Heart Association, up to 80% of heart disease and strokes are preventable. So, what exactly happens to the heart during an attack?

About The Author

Eric Soehngen, MD, PhD is a board-certified senior Physician and the Founder and CEO of WALKOLUTION – the maker of the medical based workplace system, that lets users walk while working.

WALKOLUTION applies latest scientific findings to reshape the future of work and corporate health.

 

Also By The Author

Death by Sitting explains in a comprehensible and accessible format, with scientific accuracy exactly how sitting has become “the new smoking”. Read why we need a movement revolution.

Available in Print and Digital.

References

Ford, E.S., & Caspersen, C.J. (2012). Sedentary behaviour and cardiovascular disease: a review of prospective studies. Int J Epidemiol, Oct;41(5):1338-53.

LaCroix, A.Z., Leveille, S.G., Hecht, J.A., et al. (1996). Does walking decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease hospitalizations and death in older adults? J Am Geriatr Soc, 44:113-120.

Hamer, M., & Chida, Y. (2008). Walking and primary prevention: a meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. Br J Sports Med, Apr;42(4):238-43.

Hayashi, Tomoshige., et al. “High normal blood pressure, hypertension, and the risk of type 2 diabetes in Japanese men. The Osaka Health Survey.” Diabetes Care 22.10 (1999): 1683-1687.

Matthews, C.E., George, S.M., Moore, S.C., et al. (2012). Amount of time spent in sedentary behaviors and cause-specific mortality in US adults. Am J Clin Nutr, Feb;95(2):437-45.

 

 

Is Your Heart Designed To Sit All Day?

Is Your Heart Designed To Sit All Day?

YOUR HEART
DESIGNED TO
KEEP YOU
MOVING

 

by Dr. Eric Söhngen 

Senior Medical Doctor, Book Author, Entrepreneur

A heart attack is the ultimate complication of a disease, which may often remain silent for years before revealing itself in a single, and sometimes deadly event. Heart disease remains the number one cause of deaths worldwide, accounting for more than 15 million deaths in 2015 alone. In comparison, road injuries killed 1.3 million people in the same year (WHO, 2017). According to the American Heart Association, up to 80% of heart disease and strokes are preventable. So, what exactly happens to the heart during an attack?

With every beat, the heart sends a portion of blood through a range of blood vessels in order to nurture and fuel itself. As a powerful muscle in constant action, the heart has a steady demand for oxygen and nutrients.

Worse Than Smoking

How does a sedentary lifestyle contribute to this pathology? Why is sitting too much becoming even more dangerous to our cardiac health than smoking, as is often cited in current headlines?

About The Author

Eric Soehngen, MD, PhD is a board-certified senior Physician and the Founder and CEO of WALKOLUTION – the maker of the medical based workplace system, that lets users walk while working.

WALKOLUTION applies latest scientific findings to reshape the future of work and corporate health.

 

Also By The Author

Death by Sitting explains in a comprehensible and accessible format, with scientific accuracy exactly how sitting has become “the new smoking”. Read why we need a movement revolution.

Available in Print and Digital.

 

 

References

Ford, E.S., & Caspersen, C.J. (2012). Sedentary behaviour and cardiovascular disease: a review of prospective studies. Int J Epidemiol, Oct;41(5):1338-53.

LaCroix, A.Z., Leveille, S.G., Hecht, J.A., et al. (1996). Does walking decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease hospitalizations and death in older adults? J Am Geriatr Soc, 44:113-120.

Hamer, M., & Chida, Y. (2008). Walking and primary prevention: a meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. Br J Sports Med, Apr;42(4):238-43.

Hayashi, Tomoshige., et al. “High normal blood pressure, hypertension, and the risk of type 2 diabetes in Japanese men. The Osaka Health Survey.” Diabetes Care 22.10 (1999): 1683-1687.

Matthews, C.E., George, S.M., Moore, S.C., et al. (2012). Amount of time spent in sedentary behaviors and cause-specific mortality in US adults. Am J Clin Nutr, Feb;95(2):437-45.