I had a horrible shock about two weeks ago. You know when you have to fill in those health questionnaires and they ask you how active you are? I’ve always put ‘moderately’ – after all, until The Knee put me out of action for a bit, I was exercising five hours a week, however, it turns out that might not have been completely correct. Turns out ‘couch potato’ might be more accurate, I may now buy myself a little straw hat like the fellow down below.
See, for the last couple of weeks I’ve been wearing this little gizmo called a Fitbit. About 5cm long and 2.5cm wide you wear this thing on your bra (or waistband for the male folk) and it measures how much you move throughout the day – how many steps you take, flights of stairs you climb, whether you’re a little bit active or moving a rate of knots blah, de blah, blah. Then, it shows you the info in nice little graphs and pie charts like that one below. You even get to judge how high you’ve climbed via useful landmark equivalents – 21 flights of stairs is the temple of Angkor Wat, nine flights is akin to scaling the world’s largest pencil.
I popped it on expecting that by teatime I would be at least halfway to my recommended 10,000 steps goal – in fact I scoffed at my daily 10,000 steps goal. At the end of a 24 hour normal working day I had done precisely 767 steps and spent over 22 hours of my day classed as ‘sedentary’.
I was horrified. This year I must have written at least 10 articles mentioning about how sedentary living is now the biggest threat to our health. How, when you’re sitting, your muscles just don’t fire which means you don’t burn up sugars in the blood raising your risk of diabetes, how production of a fat burning substance called lipoprotein lipase shuts down when you sit so levels of blood fats increase. I’ve even written about how when you’re sitting the fat cells in your bottom stretch and the pressure on them creates more fat cells to be produced making your butt bigger. And it now seems I spent over 20 hours of my own day sitting on mine.
I was sure gym day would change things – but not so much. Doing my normal workout I’d reach 7000 or 8000 steps in a day, but not the elusive 10,000. The only day in my first week that I broke 10,000 was when I went up to London – between the journey, walking to my destination and a quick pootle round Primark I racked up 11,372 steps in 24 hours. Suddenly one of biggest mysteries of the last 10 years was solved – why I’d put on half a stone within three months of going freelance (despite staying out of the fridge) and have never managed to shift it. I’d reduced my daily incidental movement at least 12fold. That’s the incidental movement experts say is THE difference between people who are thin and those who aren’t. Way to go Helen!
Now I’m doing everything I can to start moving – it’s tricky in my job as 97% of my working life sees me typing copy, surfing the internet or writing down what’s being said when I’m talking on the phone, none of which tend to lend itself to walking about much or even standing up. But I am attempting to wander round the house hourly – I have a little circular circuit which I repeat 5-10 times in a manner The Boyfriend claims makes me look like a slightly deranged zoo animal. The trip to the post office now involves an extra hill and I have turned into one of those mad people who walks up Tube escalators – yes, even the long ones at Tottenham Court Road.
It’s still really tough to break the 10,000 on a day when I don’t go to the gym, so every so often I’m found charging out of the house shouting ‘I’m off to make the flower happy’ – there’s a little flower on the device that grows the closer you get to 10,000 steps. Just seeing it’s little stilted body on low step days fills me with such guilt I have to head off round the block to up the numbers – ironic as every live plant in my possession I manage to kill in about a week.
There’s not many devices that can really truly change your life, but this is one of them. It’s really made me face up to the fact that even though I hit the gym regularly, 45 minutes on the treadmill does not counteract 23 hours sitting on your butt all day. If you’re cursing your ‘slow metabolism’ and wondering why your weight doesn’t shift, I’d definitely recommend giving it a try. Find out all you need to know on their website – here.