Step Your Way to Better Health

Here at West Mesa Wellness we know how difficult it can be to maintain a regular exercise schedule. However, did you know that you may be able to significantly boost your fitness level through less formal activities? Dr. Greif would like to let you know that just taking a few extra steps each day can significantly improve your health, especially if those steps involve climbing stairs. Yep literal steps.


Not only does our favorite doctor of chiropractic encourage patients to make strides toward wellness by committing to increase the number of steps they take and opting for the stairs rather than the elevator or escalator whenever possible. But he also points out the many reasons why just taking a few extra steps is not only a good idea, but it’s an idea supported across the board by doctors and physical fitness experts no matter their specialty.


The Challenge


Dr. Greif is challenging everyone to commit to 30 days of doing just that. Taking extra steps and opting out of elevators and escalators. The reason for this, he believes that once you commit for one moth it’ll be come a long-term habit.


More Steps Ward Off Chronic Disease


Doctors of chiropractic, like Dr. Greif, are concerned about the increasing prevalence of chronic diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular disease. With this in mind, Dr. Greif, recently brought research conducted at the University of Missouri to our attention here that backs the claims of the CDC (Centers for Disease Control). This research stats that a reduction in daily physical activity, such as the number of steps a person takes each day, is a cause of chronic diseases. The research team also found that it only takes about two weeks of reduced steps for individuals to start noticing the effects.[i]


“A low level of daily physical activity not only doesn’t help your current health status, it could be the reason you got sick in the first place,” explains Professor Frank Booth. “Our study looked at what happened when a group of individuals reduced their daily physical activity. Our findings indicated that if there is a lack of normal physical activity, a person greatly increases the chances of developing a chronic disease. Previously, we thought that not exercising just wasn’t healthy, but we didn’t think that a lack of activity could cause disease. That assumption was wrong.”


Booth and researchers at the University of Copenhagen conducted two different studies in Copenhagen. In the first study, they asked participants to reduce the number of steps they took per day from 6,000 to 1,400 for three weeks. Researchers instructed participants to use motorized transportation, such as a car or elevator, instead of walking or taking the stairs in every situation possible.


The second study asked participants who were more active, averaging 10,000 steps per day, to reduce their activity to 1,400 steps per day for two weeks. The number of steps the average American adult takes per day is 7,473, although Americans who are inactive typically take about 2,100 steps each day.[ii]


At the end of each study, participants were administered a glucose tolerance test, fat tolerance test, or both. These tests measure how fast the body is able to clear glucose or fat from the bloodstream.


The researchers found that after two weeks of no exercise and very little activity, participants had much higher levels of glucose and fat and took a much longer time to clear the substances from their bloodstream than before. The longer it takes the body to clear the bloodstream of the substances, the higher the likelihood that diabetes or other chronic diseases will develop.


“We used to think that it is healthy to be physically active, but this study shows that it is dangerous to be inactive for just a couple of weeks,” comments Bente Klarlund Pedersen, study co-author and professor of internal medicine and director of the Centre of Inflammation and Metabolism at the University of Copenhagen. “After 14 days of reduced stepping, subjects experienced accumulation of the dangerous abdominal fat, while also developing elevated blood-lipids, a sign of pre-diabetes and cardiovascular disease. If you choose the passive mode of transportation and abstain from exercise, then your risk of chronic disease is likely to increase markedly.”


“Increasing daily stepping could actually reverse the cause of chronic disease,” Booth adds. “When extra fats and sugars (glucose) don’t clear the bloodstream, they go where we don’t want them and cause for our bodies’ typical metabolic functions.”


The researchers also found that the total skeletal and muscle mass in the body decreased when activity decreased. Booth says that longer studies are needed to help answer more questions about the detrimental effects of long-term physical inactivity.


Focus on Stairs


Researchers in Switzerland have found that simply switching from taking the elevator at work to taking the stairs may have a dramatic impact on cardiovascular health. This research was presented at a meeting of the European Society of Cardiology in September 2008.


The investigators followed 69 sedentary employees in Geneva. For 12 weeks, the subjects used the stairs, rather than the elevator, at work.


Their average use of stairs climbed to 23 stories a day, compared with five stories prior to the study. This equates to a substantial gain in cardiovascular fitness and a 15% drop in the risk of dying.


Signs Up for Steps


Simply hanging up signs at your workplace or apartment building encouraging stair use can be extremely motivational. In one study, signage suggesting stair use over elevator use increased stair use at one college campus by 18.6%.[iii]


Dr. Greif’s Tips to Take More Steps


Rather than wasting gas circling for a parking spot close to your destination, always park your car a few blocks away, or in the farthest side of the lot.


Walk to work, or walk your children to school whenever possible.


Start a lunchtime walking club at work. Rather than eating out, pack a lunch to allow time for walking.


Opt for the stairs over the elevator or escalator whenever possible.


If you are a frequent flier, get in the habit of walking around the terminal during layovers. You can also leave time to walk rather than taking the electric walkways.


Take up evening walks after dinner and chores are finished with the family or alone.


When weather prevents walking outside, consider walking up and down a flight of stairs in a public building, or walking around large indoor museums or malls.


Get in the habit of asking friends to meet you for a walk instead of a drink or meal.


Choose to live in a city center if possible. Evidence shows that people who live in cities tend to walk more.


If your destination is too far to walk to, use public transportation if possible, rather than driving. Public transportation typically requires some walking from your bus stop or subway station to your destination.


Wear a pedometer and challenge your friends and family members to see who can cover the most steps each day or week. After all who doesn’t like a challenge to keep them motivated!


[i] JAMA 2008;299:1261-3.

[ii] JAMA 2008;299:1261-3.

[iii] J Am Coll Health 2008;57:242-4.


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