Make your 10,000 steps count.

Have you heard about taking 10,000 steps per day? Make your steps count. 

Have you hit the 10,000 step mark? Great! Well done. You've probably exercised for at least 30 minutes today, working towards the Surgeon General's goal of exercising 150 minutes per week, outside of your daily activities. 

Are you consistently taking 10,000 steps? Even better. Now let's see how we can make quality of your step count. 

If you're currently gaining your steps through short intervals, mix it up. Try to take steps in a longer bouts of time. Perhaps walk to a new restaurant a little further away for lunch. Park further away from your destination so you have more time to make your steps count. Hop off the subway a stop or two early to walk for a longer period of time to your destination.

Or take your steps at a greater intensity. Pick up the pace. Power walk. Jog up the stairs instead of walk. Jog instead of walk. Run instead of walk. Alternate walking for 3 minutes and running for 3 minutes, or whatever interval feels good for you. 

If you're feeling ambitious, you can even try to do both. However it's important to note a few things:

  • If you're not consistently taking 10,000 steps now, slowly work up to it. If you're taking 3,000 steps, push yourself to 3,5000 and so on.
  • You can use something like a fitbit, pedometer, or app on your phone to count your steps.
  • Make sure you have comfy, supportive sneakers!
  • Check in with your doctor if you experience any aches or pains

Want to push restart on exercise? It’s time to look to your past.

Looking at your exercise history is important because you will remember what you like and what you don’t like

When you look back and only remember hating (a word I don't use lightly) exercise, ask yourself why.
Did it maybe make you uncomfortable?
Did people stare at you in the gym?
Did it physically hurt?

Or maybe you only have positive memories!
Do you see something in your old self that you want to see now?
Do you remember finding enjoyment from exercise but don’t know how to do that now?

At what time of day did you enjoy exercising?
For example, exercise before work might motivate you to get through your day! Or perhaps exercise after work will prepare you for a good night’s rest. Oftentimes people will take a break during their workday to go sweat outside, in a gym, or in a class to replace their afternoon caffeine kick.

Which did you enjoy more: exercising in a group more than exercising solo?
If you’re constantly surrounded by people, whether you’re in school, in an office, or at home with a child, it’s nice to have some alone time. What if you were to put on some headphones, the universal do not disturb sign? And if you’re busy during the day, sometimes you fall behind on your favorite tv shows or podcasts. Exercising can be the time to catch up!
If you find yourself lonely during the day, working from home or in a space that doesn’t require conversation, maybe you’d like a group class. You’ll have a social interaction whether you talk to other people or not! Being in a class surrounded by other people can motivate you to push yourself just a bit harder. And in a yoga class, you might find that your breath connects with others’ in the room. While these classes can give you piece of mind, connecting with others will also motivate you to work towards your own personal potential.

Last thing. Growing up, was there a sport that you truly loved?
Nowadays there are exercises that will mimic the exact sport you adored. Or maybe you could join a league and play for fun. There’s something to be said about nostalgia to increase your likelihood of getting out of the house. For me, it’s figure skating. There’s nothing like the smell of the ice to get me moving.

To move forwards towards our exercise goals, it’s really helpful to look backwards, whether it’s to something you loved or something you hated. History doesn’t always have to repeat itself. You will either learn what you can love now, or reignite a fire underneath you to get you moving. 

Why are Americans so concerned about weight?

Why are Americans so concerned about weight? It’s not just because thinness is portrayed as ideal. Overweight and obesity are public health concerns because of the increased likelihood of concurrent  diseases and increased likelihood of death. People who are overweight are at a higher risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, arthritis, and decreased reproductive health. Of women in the United States, 63% are overweight, 36% are obese, and 8% are extremely obese.

What is it like for overweight women trying to lose weight in the US? Challenging. Society’s negative views of overweight and obesity create more than just physiological barriers for women who are motivated to become healthier. Overweight and obese women are oppressed by stress and anxiety from stigma, more than those of women of normal weight. The American culture is the most powerful factor that contributes to how, when, and why people eat and the amount they exercise they perform.

The easiest way to understand overweight and obesity is as results from an energy imbalance. While the body needs a certain amount of calories from food to maintain basic life functions, people continuously eat and drink more calories than they burn. How and where we live also affect our energy balance. Our new living environments require a lot more driving and a lot less walking. These lifestyle changes tip the energy balance towards weight gain. Our energy imbalances are a result of eating habits, our bigger portion sizes, and our food selections, which are mostly full of calories from high-fructose corn syrup and refined fats. Not only are they full of calories, they contribute to the changing patterns of food consumption – how and what we eat.

It is easy to understand weight gain and loss through the lens of energy balance. However it is more complex than that, which is why we need more comprehensive treatment and prevention. Other treatments might be related to behavioral, nutritional, surgical, or pharmaceutical…but not everybody has access to these strategies. I know I’ve said this before, but I will say it again – Yoga provides overweight women with many means to change their lifestyle and decrease their weight. Yoga is becoming a part of our American culture. Our culture affects our eating and exercise habits. Let’s pick this new part of our culture to influence our lifestyle habits.