A little walk here, a little stretch there…

by Denis Faye | August 3, 2011

My 7-year-old and I have a ritual. Her summer camp is six blocks from my palatial beachside estate, so we walk there each morning. The whole time, she complains. I explain that on the days I have custody, I don’t have a lot of time to exercise, so I like to fit it in when I can. Furthermore, it’s ridiculous to drive 6 blocks.

Then she complains some more.

Although I’ve just summed up the entire life of a single parent in about 70 words, the primary reason I mention this is to demonstrate my big time wisdom. I’m so wise, in fact, that a recent study out of the University of Missouri backs up. As it turns out, it’s not that one, big workout of the day that makes the difference. It’s all the little things you do along the way. From Science Blog:

John Thyfault, assistant professor in the departments of Nutrition and Exercise Physiology and Internal Medicine, found that negative physiological changes associated with a higher risk for type 2 diabetes, occur in people who transition from high amounts of activity (greater than 10,000 steps a day) to inactivity (fewer than 5,000 steps each day).

“If people spend the majority of their time sitting, even with regular periods of exercise, they are still at greater risk for chronic diseases,” Thyfault said. “If people can add some regular movement into their routines throughout the day, they will feel better and be less susceptible to health problems. In the long term, they may not see big changes in the mirror, but they will prevent further weight gain.”

It’s nice to see this information in black and white like this, although it’s nothing new. The New York Times did a great article about the evils of sitting a while back that makes a number of similar points. For example:

Several strands of evidence suggest that there’s a “physiology of inactivity”: that when you spend long periods sitting, your body actually does things that are bad for you.

As an example, consider lipoprotein lipase. This is a molecule that plays a central role in how the body processes fats; it’s produced by many tissues, including muscles. Low levels of lipoprotein lipase are associated with a variety of health problems, including heart disease. Studies in rats show that leg muscles only produce this molecule when they are actively being flexed (for example, when the animal is standing up and ambling about). The implication is that when you sit, a crucial part of your metabolism slows down.


My daughter isn’t alone in her desire to drive short distances, especially here in Los Angeles. It’s not like you’re “saving time” if you really think about. Yes, you gain 10 minutes in your day, but if you feed those 10 minutes into the “Time Is Money” calculator, you also waste an amount of gas worth more than you’d earn in that 10 minutes. Also, you’ll get fat and have a heart attack.

Even if you’d prefer to side with a 7-year-old and not buy into my logic, there are plenty of ways to keep moving through out your day while holding onto your precious 10 minutes. Take the stairs. Walk to your co-worker’s desks instead of calling them. Take water breaks. Walk around when you talk on the phone. Do stretches when you’re watching TV. Here’s a great extensive list from WebMD. The list of activities is endless.

Hopefully, the list of excuses won’t be.

One thought on “A little walk here, a little stretch there…

  1. Anonymous

    Amen! It makes me crazy (more so than usual) to get stuck inside sitting at a desk for the majority of the day. I regularly get up and take (run) the stairs in the building when I can. Im not a freak, i just enjoy being active. What makes me question the universe more is when I see co workers who sit all day (while snacking on God knows what)get up at noon,and like a horde of mindless zombies, take the elevator downstairs to the hotdog cart, sit and eat it with a bag of chips a a soda (diet of course!) then take the elevator upstairs and sit for 4 more hours. The most calories I see anyone expend is when they discuss how fat they have become and the deep desire they have to start working out. Occasionally someone will walk to the vending machine for a cinnamon roll, so I guess that counts for something.


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