The idea of reaching 10,000 steps on a daily basis is daunting for many people. In the US, one count averaged daily steps at 4800, and in Australia the average hits around 7500 steps per day. That’s a bit of time on your feet – but still well below the 10,000 steps that gets tossed around a lot. It bears asking:
How much do you risk by not hitting your 10K target?
Less than the publicity would make you believe. As it turns out, there’s no real scientific basis for the recommendation of reaching 10,000 steps. Rather, this number likely originated in Japan in the mid-1960s, either as part of a marketing campaign for a pedometer, or based on the name of a pedometer brand. As an aside, it’s reallllly convenient for such a nice round number to be the magic number we need for health. Our bodies don’t often work on such easy numbers!
That said, the number of steps you take every day does have an impact on your overall health. Numerousstudiesshowthat the more steps you average on a daily basis, the healthier you’ll be. This tends to mean that you’ll enjoy a longer life span, with a higher quality of life, than if you average fewer steps on a daily basis. Somewhat frustratingly, there doesn’t seem to be a minimum number you do need in order to achieve health benefits; We just know that the more you do, the better your health will be. As for getting steps just walking around, rather than going for a walk to workout (or other exercise, for that matter)? Interestingly, health markers and life expectancy seem to be strongly linked with just being on your feet more, as a designated workout or not.
In one recent study, the biggest decreases in risk of death occurred when inactive women became more active – even if it was nowhere near the 10,000 mark! Published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers looked at the daily step count of about 16,000 older women over the course of a week, and found that in the 4 years following the study, those in the lowest step count group were also the most likely to die. This was found even at the relatively low end of the step count spectrum: women who averaged approximately 4400 daily steps had lower mortality rates than those who took about 2700 steps a day. A higher number of daily steps saw an additional decrease in overall death rates, up through about 7500 steps daily.
So don’t sweat the 10K mark – just get up and get moving!
Live in an apartment that has a gym in the building? It’s so convenient… for you and everyone else! An apartment or home gym workout is gold, for convenience. On the other hand… One of the challenges in getting a good workout in an apartment gym is that they are usually small, can be crowded, and the equipment is sometimes of questionable value.
Most apartment complexes with gym facilities have a treadmill, a stationary bike, and sometimes an elliptical or crosstrainer machine. There’s one of everything and that one is frequently in use, especially if you’re working out before work or after hours. But why tie yourself to the same old gym equipment? Here are some fresh workouts that you can use for cardio or aerobic exercise, without slaving away on the treadmill… In fact, you can stay away from the cardio machines entirely.
These workouts are travel friendly as well, allowing you to keep on top of training even when you’re away from home. Perfect for hotel gyms or even your hotel room if you’re happy to travel with an exercise band (the superband referred to below). And of course, great for home workouts too!
Body Weight Circuit
Jumping jacks/Star jumps
Side to side hops
Plank shoulder taps or Plank shift
Complete 2-5 rounds of 10-15 reps per exercises. See it in action here!
Super Band Workout
Superband front squats
Superband shoulder press
Superband bent over row
Superband monster walk (side-to-side and front-to-back)
Complete 2-5 rounds of 8-12 reps per exercise. See it in action here!
Bent over row
Complete 2-5 rounds of 8-12 reps per exercise. See it in action here!
With any and all of these exercises, remember that:
Only perform exercises that you can do safely and pain-free. If you aren’t used to moderate or high intensity exercise, chat with your doctor before starting an exercise program. You can test your Exercise Readiness with this quick questionnaire.
All of these workouts are flexible. If you like or dislike certain exercises, you can swap them out, or just add others in to create more variety. Choose your own adventure!
If you’re keen to workout on your own? Keep yourself going with this additional recommended reading:
I just got a pop-up ad for weight loss. Specifically, “Join The Weight Loss Challenge”. What was the challenge? “How Much Weight Can YOU Lose In Three Days?”
This is a terrible idea. Here’s why:
First and foremost, how do you lose “as much as you can”? For most people, this usually means very little food, a whole lot of exercise, or some combination of the two. The approach you choose can have a significant impact on your three day (or long term) weight loss outcome. Regardless of your chosen food-intake-and-exercise combination, the science says short-term diets aren’t the way to achieve sustainable weight loss. Consider the following:
You’re not losing what you think you’re losing.
Your body is always burning fat (on a daily basis, more than half the energy your body uses comes from your fat stores). Changing your food intake or exercise volume over the course of a few days will not drastically alter fat burning.
You may still see a drop on the scales though: Lots of water weight can be lost in this time. Normal urine outputs can be anywhere between 800-2000ml per day (equating to 0.8-2kg, or 1.75-4.4 pounds), and additional water weight is lost through other body functions like sweat, bowel movements, and breathing. If your food or fluid intake is low, you’ll have less fluid to lose, but your total body volume will still decrease to a degree. (There’s a lot more to the processes of losing or retaining water weight, including different hormone levels, exercise levels, external factors like heat and humidity, and others.)
And, though three days is a short timeframe, you might also see some (very small) weight loss due to muscle breakdown and the use of stored carbohydrate, though this depends on what you’re eating and drinking, and what kind of exercise you’re doing over these three days. It’s very unlikely that you’ll lose enough muscle mass to have a noticeable impact on scale weight, but I bring this up because it can impact the next point…
You’ll likely gain it back.
By the end of three days you’re going to be hungry – especially if you’re eating little/exercising lots. Physical and mental aspects contribute to how we react to feeling hungry; the end result is that usually we eat – perhaps more than we need to in the long run. Our bodies have an inbuilt “survival drive” to rebuild the energy stores – the amount of fat, stored carbohydrate, and muscle mass – your body used for fuel during those three days. Hunger may lead to eating beyond what you need to rebuild those stores. We can eat a lot of calories very quickly, and the body takes some time to process food, replenish stores, and register that things are back to normal.
This sounds like three days of… unpleasantness.
You might be able to go for a day or three eating little and/or exercising a lot and feel ok physically and/mentally. Different people respond to dieting differently, though, and deprivation can have a negative impact on feelings of well-being, energy and fatigue levels, mental health states like anxiety or depression. And being hungry is not fun.
True weight loss or gain takes time. You can definitely lose weight in three days, but it’s not going to be the fat loss that you want, and it’s very unlikely to stay off. I’m a big fan of the “do it once, do it right” approach, and making the process enjoyable. It can be done!
For More Information:
Johnstone, A. (2007). Fasting ? the ultimate diet?. Obesity Reviews, 8(3), 211-222. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-789x.2006.00266.x
Melzer, K. (2011). Carbohydrate and fat utilization during rest and physical activity. E-SPEN, The European E-Journal Of Clinical Nutrition And Metabolism, 6(2), e45-e52. doi: 10.1016/j.eclnm.2011.01.005
Working out: If you’re not in the habit, it’s not always fun to get started. Good news though! Lots of everyday activities, hobbies, and recreation can count as physical activity, which has a big impact on maintaining good cardiovascular and metabolic health, prevents and helps manage joint pains, and can help with weight loss or management, if that’s your goal. You might not get 100% of the physical benefits that a big gym session would provide, but as it turns out, it’s the small amounts of day-to-day movement that are really important, so get moving!
Incidental Exercise At Home
Vacuuming and mopping: Push, pull, push, pull – it’ll get your heart rate up. Bonus points: Swap arms halfway through to help maintain balance in left side-right side movement ability. If your back gets sore, stop, place your hands on the back of your hips, soften your knees and gently extend your back to bend backwards.
Window Washing: Will have you moving your shoulders and arms in a low-stress way you’re not used to, which is great for reducing injury risk and maintaining joint mobility. Aim to swap arms frequently to help maintain left side-right side balance (see above).
Gardening / Yard work: The most common heavy lifting of around-the-house exercise. May including lifting, carrying, and placing heavy objects, reaching or stepping in movements that are less common, and generally being on your feet all day. Like vacuuming, if you’re finding you’re stuck in a single position for a longer period, stop and give your body a break by doing the opposite of that movement.
Washing the car: Reaching, stretching, and squatting down. Keeps you moving!
Playing with the kids: Might involve running around after them – good cardio. Might involve getting down and up off the floor – good joint mobility. Might involve staying down on the floor – good opportunity to give the hips a little bit of a stretch.
Carrying kids around: Even small kids get heavy pretty quickly! Carrying the kids around adds to the cardio effect of walking and moving around, but it also create poor posture as you shift your torso and hips to carry more comfortably. Make sure you swap sides, because your body does best with equal stress and effort.
DIY home maintenance: The other heavy lifting you might do around the house, DIY work often has you moving into different positions that you might during the course of a normal day. Moving through different positions is great for maintaining flexibility and joint health, and can keep posture good and pain at bay.
Incidental Exercise At The Office
If you have an office job, you know how challenging it can be to maintain any amount of movement. Haven’t we all looked up from email to realize that we haven’t moved in three hours?
Getting coffee: Adds steps to your daily step count. Two bonuses on this: Coffee (or tea, or your beverage of choice) does actually count towards your daily hydration goals. (Even though it has a mild diuretic effect, you drink more liquid than you’ll excrete.) More hydration means more bathroom breaks, and therefore even more steps.
Fidgeting: The subconscious movement that your parents might have scolded you for actually burns calories. It will not amount to much extra, but it does count.
Taking the stairs: One of the most bang-for-buck activities you can do, as it gets your heart rate high and gives the big muscles in your legs a bit of a workout. Pro tip – Minimize knee pain risk by stepping with as much of your foot on the stair as you can.
Standing around, i.e. Serving customers, using a standing desk: Simply maintaining a standing position takes almost twice as much energy as sitting does, and can reduce stress and strain on through the front of the hips and the lower back. All standing, all the time has it’s own set of problems though, so your best bet is to alternate postures.
Get away from the desk, i.e. make your own copies, have face to face conversations: More steps, more steps, more steps. Plus, in-person conversations can be just as fast as email (and sometimes a lot clearer!).
Incidental Exercise Out and About
Going out and doing stuff makes a big difference to your levels of physical health and fitness. Why spend your free time sitting around?
Grocery shopping: Again, more steps. Walking is good! Bonus: If you’re not getting much, use a hand basket and carry your groceries for some added strength training. This goes for any sort of shopping, really.
Riding a bike: You don’t have to ride like you’re on the Tour de France to get some good for your body. Go for a cruise to help keep your legs strong and get some cardiovascular work in.
Hiking: A great way to gently challenge your joints and muscles, since the paths aren’t even and smooth. Being out in nature is an amazing way to boost your happiness quotient too.
Going for a walk: Doesn’t have to be fast, or far. There’s something about the rhythmic nature of aerobic exercise that makes it a meditation in movement, so you get some de-stress time as well as some gentle cardio work.
Playing in the pool: Fun! The pressure from the water gives your body something to work against, but it’s not so much resistance that it actually seems like work. Explains why you’re always more tired than you expect when you jump out.
Backyard games: Play with the kids. Set up teams for horseshoes or a beanbag toss. An easy game of touch football. Keep yourself on your feet and moving as much as you can. Your engagement will increase your enjoyment!
So, what can you plan into your day tomorrow to boost your movement time?
Another great question from one of our exercise physiology clients in St Lucia:
Should I exercise when I’m sick?
In broad terms, moderate exercise and good fitness support good health. But improving your fitness levels doesn’t guarantee that you’ll never catch a cold or the flu. Here are your science-supported guidelines for exercising when you’re sick.
Consider how sick you actually are. If your illness is moderate to severe, with an associated fever, aching muscles, extreme fatigue, or swollen glands, skip your workout and rest up. Do what you would normally do to get yourself better, whether that’s heading to the doctor or heading to bed with some extra vitamin C.
If you are severely ill, with the above symptoms, you may need as much as two to four weeks away from moderate to intense exercise. Illness and exercise both stress the immune system in the same way, and depending on what type of viral or bacterial infection, pushing through to work out when you’re sick can actually make your illness worse. In extreme cases, this can lead to lasting damage to your heart or lungs.
If your illness is minor, without any associated fever, muscles aches or fatigue, or swollen glands, you might be ok to exercise. General guidelines suggest that:
If your symptoms occur above the neck (stuffy or runny nose, dry cough, or sore/scratchy throat), you’re safe to start with easy exercise or activity – think short sessions that are low intensity, like heading out for a walk. If you find your symptoms get worse, stop exercise until they improve.
If you’ve got symptoms below the neck (fever, aching muscles, vomiting, diarrhea, or anything else to do with your digestive tract), rest up until your symptoms go away.
Use your common sense. Do you feel too tired to work out, or otherwise just don’t feel up to it? Your body is giving you the answer right there! You wont make any gains when working out under fatigue or illness, and in fact you may prolong your recovery. Get some extra sleep and get back to quality exercise when you’re feeling ready for it.
Putting your workouts on hold can be frustrating, especially when you’re working hard to build your momentum and maintain your progress. If you’re feeling this, take a minute to step back and look at the big picture: You could push through and do your workout, but will it be worth it? You’re unlikely to make any gains in fitness, and may prolong your illness and recovery. We all need more sleep anyway, so indulge in that, get better faster, and get back to life as you want it!
For more information:
Gleeson, M. (Ed.). (2006). Immune function in sport and exercise. Sydney: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier.
Plowman, S. A., & Smith, D. L. (2017). Exercise Physiology For Health, Fitness, and Performance (5th ed.). Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
Get started with a safe exercise that will improve your health and fitness with an in-home exercise physiology program from HealthFit Coaching. Regardless of your current health levels, you can safely work out to improve your health, fitness, energy levels, and quality of life. Contact us now to find out how.
Great question from one of our personal training clients in Taringa this last week:
Should I do my workouts in the morning or the evening for better weight loss?
When it comes to working out, most of us want to maximize the results we get, so it would make sense to work out when your body can make the most of it. Popular belief in the personal training and body building worlds holds that cardio first thing in the morning is a great fat burner, perfect for losing weight and toning up. How true is that?
The answer: Somewhat.
There is evidence that morning exercise can set you up for better fat burning (and improvements in other health markers) throughout the day, meaning that over the course of the day, you may burn slightly more fat than you might if you were relying solely on evening exercise. Why am I talking about fat burning if you want to lose weight? Body fat loss is far more likely to be what achieves your weight loss goal, than overall weight loss. Body composition is what determines how lean and toned you look, and from a health perspective, lower body fat levels are associated with lower levels of health risk; fat loss rather than weight loss can significantly improve your health.
Any exercise you do will have a positive impact on your body fat levels, regardless of what time of day you do it. But both morning and evening workouts have their own benefits. Several factors are in play here:
Exercising leads to a slight to moderate increase in metabolism during the “recovery period”, or the time after your workout when your body is busy replenishing cellular energy stores and making repairs to tissues. Because of this, exercise in the morning may provide a slight advantage by adding to the normal amounts of energy used during your daily activities. Overall, you may see a small increase in overall energy (calories) burned during the day. It’s important to note that this difference will be minor, especially if your morning workout is low to moderate intensity, and will not be enough to make a huge difference to body weight and body composition in a short or even moderate/medium time frame – this is for playing the long game.
Some studies have shown an increase in fat burning tendencies after exercise in the morning compared to exercise in the evening, though other studies have found no differences. This also appears to be dependent on the types of fats in your diet, with unsaturated varieties being more easily used than saturated fats. This can be particularly useful if you’re exercising for heart, cardiovascular, or metabolic health.
Exercise intensity and the resulting hormonal and immune responses (generally thought to be related to the physical stress of exercise) both influence the use of fats versus carbohydrates in providing energy at a cellular level. In normal physical function, these responses are influenced by the time of day as well as how you exercise. Many physical responses to exercise are amplified in the evening; Evening exercise appears to increase the body’s hormonal and immune responses, which in turn can lead to higher release of fat molecules into the bloodstream – basically, leading to increased breakdown of fat stores. It’s important to note, however, that increased breakdown of fat stores does not necessarily mean increase fat burning, as these molecules may continue to circulate in the blood without being used.
Given that the hormonal responses to exercise are heightened during the evening hours, you may wish to consider how these might impact your sleep. One normal exercise response is to increase levels of your “fight or flight” hormones, making you more alert – rather than ready for bed. If you already have sleep challenges, you may wish to avoid evening exercise.
Exercise at any time of the day is can be followed by a decrease in blood pressure. While this response is larger after evening exercise, there is evidence that the blood pressure decrease after morning exercise is more consistent. It may also be more valuable if you are prehypertensive or have high blood pressure. As part of normal body functions, you experience a temporary rise in blood pressure in the mornings; the decrease in blood pressure following morning exercise can return these morning “spikes” to more normal levels.
Evidence exists for both morning exercise and evening exercise to be more effective in fat burning and weight loss, and there are mindset and motivation effects of morning exercise that are hard to look past. For example, if you hit the gym in the morning, will that make you less likely to grab that pastry from the office kitchen for breakfast? Regardless of the science and the mindset effects, your work outs, your ability to lose weight, and your health will all stand to make the most improvements on your own timeline. The most effective workout time is going to be the time when you feel best prepared for it.
For more information:
De Bristo, L. C., Rezende, R. A., Da Silva, N. D., Junior, Tinucci, T., Casarini, D. E., Cipolla-Neto, J., & Forjaz, C. L. (2015). Post-Exercise Hypotension and Its Mechanisms Differ after Morning and Evening Exercise: A Randomized Crossover Study. Plos One,10(7).
Kim, H., Ando, K., Tabata, H., Konishi, M., Takahashi, M., Nishimaki, M., . . . Sakamoto, S. (2016). Effects of Different Intensities of Endurance Exercise in Morning and Evening on the Lipid Metabolism Response. Journal of Sports Science and Medicine,15, 467-476.
Kim, H., Konishi, M., Takahashi, M., Tabata, H., Endo, N., Numao, S., . . . Sakamoto, S. (2015). Effects of Acute Endurance Exercise Performed in the Morning and Evening on Inflammatory Cytokine and Metabolic Hormone Responses. Plos One,10(9).
Votruba, S. B., Atkinson, R. L., & Schoeller, D. A. (2004). Sustained increase in dietary oleic acid oxidation following morning exercise. International Journal of Obesity,29(1), 100-107.
Shameless plug time!
If you’re interested in exercise for weight loss and better health, we can help. HealthFit Coaching offers exercise physiology, personal training, nutrition coaching, and our signature Complete Coaching package in the Brisbane suburbs of St Lucia, Sherwood, Chelmer, Oxley, Indooroopilly, Taringa, and Toowong, or online at your convenience.
Contact us now to look good, feel great, have more energy, and enjoy life more. We offer a free no-obligation Kick Off call to make sure we can meet your needs. What do you have to lose?
You don’t have to – it may not do much to boost your calorie burn. But there are still some excellent reasons to include strength training in your weight loss plan.
Weight loss (and maintaining your new body weight) is a complex process. Exercise doesn’t actually have a huge impact on weight loss, regardless of what type you do. Food choices and your normal diet are far more impactful, but it’s more complicated than needing to eat fewer calories than you burn. And what your body is doing when you aren’t working out or eating plays a significant role that is often overlooked.
Strength training will help you maintain muscle mass over the long term. If you lift on a regular basis, your body will recognize that it needs to keep that muscle around for something. This is to your benefit during weight loss, weight maintenance, and aging in general. Bear in mind the following when you’re deciding whether you want to add some weights to your routine:
Weight loss from a combination of calorie restriction (changed diet) and increased exercise or daily movement will actually decrease your metabolism and daily energy use, since this is directly linked to total body weight. Strength training will help you maintain or increase your muscle mass and therefore your metabolism, which means that you can maintain higher energy use while still losing body fat.
Weight training can help the appearance of fat loss in certain areas of the body by giving underlying muscle more definition or size. It’s not possible to preferentially burn fat in certain areas (often called spot toning or spot reduction) – when fat loss happens, it happens all over the body.
While cardio exercise will burn the most calories in a given workout, because it’s relatively low intensity, your body quickly recovers. Weight-based exercise will create more of a challenge for your body, and you’ll use more energy in recovering from this. (Bear in mind that exercise intensity rather than type will ultimately determine how much energy the body will use for physical recovery.)
Strength training is also good for your health, in a variety of ways:
Regular resistance training will keep the cells involved in energy production and use working smoothly and your body systems functioning well. For example, muscles that are regularly exposed to high intensity exercises will be better at absorbing and using blood glucose, requiring less insulin production and decreasing diabetes risk.
Maintaining or even increasing muscle mass can help prevent frailty in old age. Muscle mass and movement ability are linked, and movement ability means good mobility, agility, balance, and catching yourself if you trip and fall.
Strength training can prevent and help treat osteopenia and osteoporosis, two types of decreasing bone density. Bone loss can be due to the aging process, or can be brought about by calorie restriction or dieting. Lifting weights can help stimulate bone growth, especially when you also have adequate calcium intake.
One last note about strength training and weight loss: Because weights will stimulate at least a small increase in muscle mass, using weights in your weight loss program may actually lead to less change in scale weight. For most people, this is a tradeoff they’re happy to make – looking great makes the number on the scale matter a lot less!
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Elia M. (1992). Organ and tissue contribution to metabolic rate. In: Kinney JM, Tucker HN, editors. Energy Metabolism: Tissue Determinants and Cellular Corollaries. New York: Raven Press.
Plowman, S. A., & Smith, D. L. (2017). Exercise physiology for health, fitness, and performance (5th ed.). Sydney: Wolters Kluwer.