Humans are walking one tenth the amount they used to and it is severely affecting our health.
Our species has been around for approximately 250,000 years (and been evolving for millions).
During that time, humans were hunter-gatherers and they took an estimated 50,000 steps per day.
The Agricultural Revolution was about 12,000 years ago.
Once we became settled and started farming during the Agricultural Revolution, that number dropped to approximately 20,000.
That's more than half the distance we evolved to walk on a daily basis.
Do you know how many steps the average American takes today?
A mere 5,000.
Our bodies have evolved to take approximately 50,000 steps per day and yet we find ourselves walking one tenth of that distance on average.
Which begs the question: how unhealthy is it to walk so little?
Sitting is the New Smoking
A sedentary lifestyle leads to an increased risk in developing cancer, a greater risk of heart disease, a higher risk for obesity, an increased risk for Type 2 Diabetes, and a greater likelihood of developing depression.
It gets worse: the negative effects of long-term sitting cannot be reversed. Like smoking, they stay with you regardless of the amount of positive habits you may develop after the fact.
So you can't sit all day at work and then simply work out, or go for a run to reduce the damage sitting caused.
Simply put, our bodies have not evolved for this type of sedentary lifestyle.
What To Do About It
Okay, I get it. You live in the modern world and have a modern job where you don't walk around all day hunting and gathering your food or tilling your land.
Walking 50,000 steps may be impractical for most people if they want to keep their jobs. Maybe not, but let's pretend it is.
What do we do about it?
There are creative solutions you can implement in your daily life that will keep you less sedentary and ultimately, more healthy.
Track Your Steps
If you don't already have a wearable pedometer, get one.
I know wearable electronics are all the crazy but you don't have to get all fancy and opt for a FitBit. Low cost pedometers can be purchased online for less than the cost of a latte.
Set goals for yourself and make it into a game to see how many steps you can take in a day, a week, or a month.
Then, give yourself rewards if you hit your targets to instill positive reinforcement patterns.
Stand For 10 Minutes Every Hour
Standing desks are the new craze but you don't have shell out hundreds of dollars to stand all day in order to avoid the negative consequences of sitting.
Standing for approximately 10 minutes of every hour greatly reduces the negative health consequences of a sedentary lifestyle.
Set a timer from your phone once an hour and then stand or walk around for 10 minutes.
This frequent activity disrupts the negative health consequences of being sedentary for too long and means you don't have to stand all day at an overpriced desk.
Walking Meetings / Call a Friend
Have you ever heard of 'walking meetings'?
Next time you have a meeting on the phone, don't just sit at your desk, go for a walk!
Not only will you reap the physical benefits but walking as been shown to increase cognition as well so your meeting may go that much better.
Or phone a friend! Too often we rely on text messages or social media to stay in contact with our friends or loved ones.
Instead, opt for a brisk walk while you catch up with those you miss.
Park Far Away
This actually takes care of two birds with one stone.
People often spend more time looking for a good parking spot than the amount of time it would take to park farther away and walk.
Avoid the frustration, save on time, and gain the physical benefits of walking. Plus, since you are tracking your steps with a pedometer, this is an easy way to boost your numbers and reach your daily goal.
Take the Stairs
Just do it.
Excuses may come up every time you have the choice between an elevator and some stairs.
When they do, remind yourself how much healthier it is to take the stairs and that health is a priority in your life. It's normal for excuses to arise but simply recognize them as such and then overpower them.
Take Your Pet on Adventures
I'm sure your dog loves the dog park but how much exercise are you getting when you drive to a park and sit on a bench?
And how much bonding time are you really getting?
Instead of parking yourself at a dog park, take your pet on a mini adventure that requires you to walk as well.
Make them fun and mix them up. You may even find yourself getting more excited about them than your dog.
Audible books are great to listen to while you take a walk but there are a lot of other ways to be informed and entertained as well.
If you have an iPhone, it came with a free Podcast application. This is your key to unlocking massive amounts of audible content from that explores thousands of different topics. RadioLab is a great one to start off with.
Blinklist is like cliff notes for books and they have a HUGE selection. Put it on audio mode and then even adjust the speed to make the narrator read faster. You can get the condensed versions of all those books you've wanted to read but know you'll never get to.
Now that you know we are walking one tenth what our bodies evolved for, keep it in mind as you go about your day. Get a pedometer and make it a challenge to take a few extra steps in your lifestyle. Involve a friend and make it fun.
But remember, even if you can't walk at work, stand for 10 minutes every hour because sitting for extended periods of time is actually dangerous.
Walking is dead, and if we don't do something about it, we may just turn into the Walking Dead.