Monday, February 10, 2014

In the World of Wellness: Move If You Wanna

Wellness is a term widely used that has multiple meanings around health and positive life style changes leading to well-being. Here we will use the term "wellness" as a means of defining a life free from disease as well as a way to explore alternative medicines, what they offer, and what this could mean for you.

Every month I'll do a post on a health and wellness related topic. This will give you a chance to explore other options, become informed, and make the best overall decision for your own well-being.

In the World of Wellness: Just 10,000 steps to a healthier you
Tory Burch for Fitbit
Several months ago I signed up for a work competition which involved walking at least 56,000 steps a week. Since 10,000 steps a day is the recommend amount for an active, healthy lifestyle, I wanted to up my game and help me get to the coveted 70,000 steps per week. To help aid in my tracking of this, I did extensive research between the leading brand names in activity trackers. It came down to either the Jawbone Up or the Fitbit Flex. After reading many, many, many, many articles and reviews, I purchased the Flex.

For those of you who are debating, I'll help lay out my decision on why I went with this one so you don't have to do nearly the amount of research I did. While the Jawbone Up definitely has better technology (not by a lot, but better) and while it's sleeker looking and the bands don't stand out as much on your wrist, the cons outweighed the benefits- for me, anyway.

The Flex syncs up right to my phone, so I never have to plug anything in to see how well I'm doing. The Jawbone Up, on the other hand, requires you to take it off and plug it into your phone. While this means I have to charge my Flex every 7 days or so, I still much prefer the ease of tracking at a glance. The Flex band is soft and comfortable to wear and sleep in, while the Jawbone Up felt a little heavier and more restrictive on my wrist. The ultimate deciding factor, however, was the user reviews. The Jawbone tends to have a lot of issues breaking, in a variety of ways. Mostly what I read was that it either stops working or the band falls apart. A lot. Within a short amount of user time. I couldn't find nearly as many issues with the Flex and, after having one for almost 5 months now, I can say I haven't had one single problem. Additionally, it's $20-$30 cheaper (depending on where you purchase it), and all I really wanted was to see how much I moved in a day without clipping something to my waist, so the Flex was the perfect fit. I do want to point out that trackers that clip to your waist tend to be the most accurate of any option out there. Annoying, but highly accurate.

The cool thing about Fitbit is that they've been around for a while and have a variety of products and, most recently, released the Force, which shows data right on your wrist instead of having to look at your phone anytime you want to see how well you've done. They also just released a new color, violet, to the collection of wristbands you can get to hold your device. Better than all of that, however, they are working on a designer series of bands by Tory Burch so it no longer looks like you're a prison inmate. Check this out. Much, much better.

Now, the more important thing, why 10,000 steps a day? We've all heard about this daily target, but why this specific number? Well, my friends, a doctor in Japan came up with the daily target decades ago when he was trying to understand the difference between being considered an active person vs. an inactive person. He determined that the average person walks somewhere between 3,000 to 5,000 steps a day and that, by increasing their steps to 10,000 a day, they could burn roughly 20% more calories. Not only that, those extra steps help reduce the risk of heart disease and, of course, lead to a slimmer waistline. Additionally, the dangers of sitting have been a new hot topic that everyone from Dr. Oz to the Huffington Post has been reporting on. By walking those 10,000 steps you help reduce the risk of inactivity caused by desk jobs and coach potato-ness. It's a win-win.

I recall this being a topic of discussion back in my nutrition school days as well. When the health of Japan was compared to the overall health of America, it was seen that the Japanese lead a healthier lifestyle through their diet and activity choices. Activity wise, they walk further distances that most Americans do on a daily basis. In fact, most other countries lead more active daily lives than we do. In many other countries people walk or even bike to work. Some countries, such as Denmark or the Netherlands, even use bikes as one of their main forms of transportation.

While this isn't always feasible for us in the states, we can try and make it a goal to walk the suggested 10,000 steps a day. I've found that the Flex does a tremendous job of keeping me motivated toward this goal. I'll admit, I don't hit the 10,000 mark every single day, but I generally hit the 70,000 steps per week by having some days where I'm more active than others. As long as I get to that 70k mark, I feel pretty good about the week.

If you're new to this 10,000 steps thing, start small. Aim for 6000 steps a day at first, then 8,000. Work your way up to 10,000. And if you have a busy schedule like me, see how well you do week over week. You may have slower days, but you'll probably find that the busier days help balance you out.

Whatever you do, and whatever tracker you decide to go with, have fun with it. It's a tool to help you establish a new awareness of how much you move.

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