Step by Step – Thousands of Them!

If you follow the news on activity and exercise (or just read my blogs and articles), you know that there are multiple recommendations regarding the daily quantity for exercise and activity.

Here’s a reminder about the pronounced health and wellness benefits resulting from exercise and activity:

  • People who exercise, even moderately, decrease their chances of having heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, Alzheimer’s and other dementia, and arthritis. Exercising can lower the chances of these illnesses by as much as 30-35%.
  • Exercisers greatly reduce instances of depression and anxiety.
  • A key component in reducing stress is having exercise and activity part of your day.

Yes, the correct amount of activity and exercise is of utmost importance to health and longevity. But how much is necessary? What is more important – activity or exercise?

As a personal fitness trainer, I always emphasize the importance of daily aerobic exercise for 30-35 minutes.  Workouts of 45-60 minutes are even better.  Muscle building (known as resistance training) two or three times a week and daily stretching are certainly beneficial, too.

The focus of this article is on aerobics and general daily activity.

Daily aerobics

As I mentioned, it is vital that we get a minimum of 30-35 minutes of aerobic exercise 5 days a week.  That can be moderate to brisk walking, jogging, biking, swimming, aerobic dancing, or any modality that will get your heart rate up into the aerobic range. The weekly accumulation needs to be a minimum of 150 minutes of aerobic exercise.  If you think about fitting this into your day, it’s not that difficult to achieve.

What’s new?

More and more studies are showing that activity is just as important as exercise. Studies show that exercisers who also engage in accumulating about 10,000 steps daily, fare better in the preventing chronic disease than exercisers who lack these 10,000 steps.

Keeping things NEAT

NEAT, or Non-exercise Activity Thermogenesis, encompasses the calories burned while living life—walking to work, typing, folding clothes, washing dishes, running errands and so on. Sleeping, eating, and formal exercise are not included.

Research suggests that prolonged sitting can be as bad for health as smoking (Owen et al. 2010). Sitting “deactivates” the brain and lowers metabolism. Limited physical activity, low levels of mental stimulation, and the absence of socialization have a detrimental effect on the human brain over time (Nussbaum 2006). Brain health should be a priority given the threat of dementia, yet most people are more reactive than proactive with their health and lifestyle (Nussbaum 2011). The good news is that movement can help, and it doesn’t have to be a marathon.

Consistent exercise and a healthy diet can help to counteract the effects of sitting too much. The next best thing is fitting in more activity within what we are already doing daily.

Also good for your brain

The brain also benefits from movement. Simple activities can boost NEAT while building and strengthening the brain. Dr. John Medina refers to physical activity as “cognitive candy.” The two primary foods for the brain are oxygen and glucose. Oxygen reacts with glucose to produce energy for cell function. By moving we increase the flow of oxygenated blood and glucose to the brain. Proper glucose levels are associated with stronger memory and cognitive function. Brain booster activities increase blood flow to the brain, feeding it with glucose and oxygen.

When a person sits for longer than 10 minutes, the brain downshifts, and it becomes more difficult to pay attention (Jensen 2000).  Sitting in office settings and school environments typically require doing a great deal of work in a seated position, and yet the brain is least productive when sitting (Eckmann 2013).

How much activity is needed?

You are probably familiar with the goal of accumulating 10,000 steps daily.  That’s a great number, but some recent research out of the Harvard School of Public Health shows that even reaching 8,000-8,500 steps brings similar health benefit.  More than 10,000 is even better, but the amount of benefit after that diminished per 1,000 steps.

Reviewing the numbers

So, let’s review:

  • 10,000—steps per day accumulated throughout the day
  • 150 – the minimum amount of aerobic exercise we need per week.
  • 30 – the minimum amount of aerobic exercise per session (or accumulated daily)

And here is one more very important number 24/7—how often our health must be an absolute priority in order to “add hours to your day, days to your year and years to your life.”


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