I found that there is a strong correlation between number of daily steps and the level of health of an individual, which includes energy level, cardiovascular health, and overall well-being. The levels are as follows:
Steps and levels of health
- Statistics: average 3,000 steps/day
- Health effect: excess weight does not seem to be going away even with the proverbial “water diet”, extremely poor health, plagued by multiple recurring symptoms, exhausted, complaining of constant malaise; frequent complaints of fluctuating blood pressure; cholesterol issues; low and high blood sugar; muscular aches; joint problems;
- Statistics: average 6,000 steps/day
- Health effect: weight seem to fluctuate up and down, but does not come down to the desirable number; ill-health; low energy; lack of stamina; recurring symptoms with a few good days; some blood pressure issues; some cholesterol issues; muscle aches;
- Statistics: average 10,000 steps/day
- Health effect: close to normal weight; some symptoms, but most easily managed; normal energy; usually normal blood pressure and cholesterol;
- Statistics average 15,000 steps/day
- Health effect: normal weight; few if any symptoms; good energy; good stamina; good demeanor, relatively happy, productive and functional; great blood pressure and cholesterol; no blood sugar problems;
What came first?
Initially I just saw the correlation, not knowing what came first, poor health or lack of activity. I knew I could not help anybody unless I understood whether it was poor health that prevented people from moving about or it was lack of activity that caused health decline.
After a few months of blood tests, comprehensive health assessments, lifestyle adjustment trials, fitness sessions, wellness measures, motivational speeches, and other tricks I came to a very strong conclusion, the number of daily steps was a reflection of a mental attitude, rather than physical ability. It was the inherent dislike for movement that caused health decline, not that poor health was responsible for immobility. Later I found formal studies that agreed with my findings.
A special note about fluctuating blood pressure
Although the paper is boring (as every research paper is), it carries a very strong message: the main reason for fluctuating blood pressure is deconditioning. In other words erratic blood pressure swings can be brought about by excessively sedentary lifestyle and lack of physical movement.
Let me explain. Well-behaved blood pressure does not depend so much on the heart, but more on a well-functioning nervous system. It is the nervous system that speeds up and slows down the heart muscle, and it is the same nervous system that tightens or widens the blood vessels to adjust the blood flow.
Physical exertion is the best trainer for the nervous system. Without regular exercise, the nervous system does not get sufficiently conditioned to carry out its task. Not surprisingly, high and fluctuating blood pressure and active lifestyle are inversely related.
How to beat arterial plaque
Apparently the healthiest hearts are found in South America. A recent study published in the Lancet confirmed that the lowest in the world calcium scores (a measure of arterial blockage) were found among Tsimane people living in Bolivia.
Let`s see. While 80% of Americans in their 70s have clogged arteries, only one third of Tsimanes have any signs of atherosclerosis. That’s true even though a Tsimane eat more meat than an average American.
Why do I mention it here? Because Tsimanes, including elderly walk a lot, averaging about 16,000 steps a day. Can you see the pattern?
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How is your future heart planning?
We all do stupid things and being sedentary is our main North American sin. When we are young we are busy making money, entertaining self, and attending to the family.
When we are older we get dependent on doctors and bitch about never ending medical bills. But nowhere in between we think seriously about regular exercise even though it would surely make a difference to the size of future medical expenses.
Tackling high and fluctuating blood pressure
I found that 10,000+ steps daily can miraculously calm down high and fluctuating blood pressure, and at the same time lose those “hard to shed” pounds. But to get there you need to unbiasedly track your activity with a pedometer or a fitness tracker.
Once you get your wrist gadget and set up an account don`t rush for lofty goals. Leave it be for a week, because first you need to know that unbearable truth about yourself.
Don’t try to bump up your steps by shopping in extra-large malls or by innocently “lending” it to a more active friend. Also, don’t sabotage those seven days by an apparent non-attendance, like forgetting to charge the battery, not putting the watch on after a shower, or putting it on too loose or too tight on the wrist.
Neither try to rationalize your low numbers by blaming long working hours, sniffles, bad weather, extra travel, or poor phone syncing. Been there, done that. Those tricks don’t work long term. You may as well give them up now. You have to face your sedentary demons if you want your heart ticking without interruptions.
Don’t run to your doctor too soon
Don’t fool yourself or your doctor any longer. Do your stepping part FIRST and ask your doctor for a heart pill at a later day… chances are you may not need it any more.
Here are my favourite cardio tools:
Statistically speaking three out of four adults don’t make the recommended 10,000 steps. Also three out of four older adults have some kind of cardiovascular disease. A coincidence or a golden opportunity?