You’ve heard all about how important physical activity is for not just weight control, but for many aspects of health, and you’ve been trying to walk more often. So why would you want some sort of monitor to track your physical activity? That’s what I used to think. But now, for me and for many patients with whom I’ve worked, I know why.
Yes, people have made headlines with reports that using a tracker led them to gain weight. However, there’s more to that story.
Although American adults are walking more, less than half of American adults (47%) reach the federal recommendation of at least 150 minutes each week of moderate aerobic activity (such as brisk walking), or 75 minutes per week of vigorous physical activity, or an equivalent combination. That’s unfortunate, since these guidelines note more than this minimum brings even greater health benefits.
Here’s the clincher: The statistics illustrate exactly why I know I need an activity tracker — only 16.3% of American adults reach the oft-heard recommendation to accumulate at least 10,000 steps a day. In fact, 36.1% of American adults qualify as sedentary, defined as less than 5,000 steps a day.
How can nearly half of Americans get 30 minutes of activity most days, yet accumulate steps so much lower than you might think? If most of your day is spent sitting and at a low activity level, it takes more intentional activity to reach levels of activity associated with health.
Will an Activity Tracker Make a Difference?
If you follow nutrition news, you’ve no doubt heard that whether your aim is lower risk of cancer, heart disease, or type 2 diabetes, or simply to protect overall health, recommendations with the most solid research base recommend a switch from the typical current American eating pattern to one that includes more plant foods. As simple as that is in concept, people sometimes tell me that actually making the swap in proportions of what’s on their plates is easier to talk about than to put into practice.
Today’s Smart Bytes® addresses that problem. I’ve asked my friend and colleague, Sharon Palmer, RDN, to share tips to surmount some of the barriers people commonly see to shifting to healthy eating patterns. Ms. Palmer is the author of two books loaded with information and fabulous recipes for plant-based eating. Her first book, The Plant-Powered Diet, has been a delightful part of my cookbook collection, and her new book, Plant-Powered for Life, will doubtless be the same. Her perspective combines the tastes of a “foodie”, the nutrition knowledge of a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) and the practical experience of a busy working mom who is “walking the talk” as she feeds her family. Continue reading
Once established, lifestyle habits – including what and how much we eat and drink, how much we sit and how much we move – become so enmeshed with our day-to-day living, that it can be hard to imagine living any other way. Some might think that when a health scare or other “flashing lights” point at how a healthy lifestyle could make a significant difference and improve quality of life, changing habits would become easy. Not so, for many people.
How can you create a “new normal”?
In this, the final section of my video interview with Maura Harrigan, MS, RD, CSO, you’ll hear what she’s learned through years of working one-on-one with cancer survivors. Yes, even cancer survivors, having faced one of the most-feared medical diagnoses, turn out to have as much trouble as everyone else adopting healthy eating habits and regular physical activity, even though research increasingly shows the difference it can make.
Maura Harrigan is a registered dietitian who is a board-certified Specialist in Oncology Nutrition. Ms. Harrigan is a research associate at the Yale School of Public Health, and Nutrition Director of the Cancer Survivorship Clinic at Yale Cancer Center. Since the last section of my Smart Bytes® interview with Ms. Harrigan, the Lifestyle, Exercise and Nutrition (LEAN) Study team at Yale received a lot of attention at the American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting sharing exciting findings about potential benefits of lifestyle change in breast cancer survivors.
You don’t need to be a cancer survivor to feel “stuck” in habits. Following the video, read on for a checklist that summarizes research-supported tips on creating healthful eating and other lifestyle choices relevant to us all.