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Walking

Sit Less and Move More with Walking Meetings

April 25, 2016
walking-meeting

Long periods of sitting are inherently bad for your health. In fact, the more time you spend each day sat down, the more likely you are to die prematurely – even if you are a regular exerciser. While exercise definitely does provide protection against many illnesses and ailments, five hours a week of exercise does not make up for 160+ hours of being sedentary.

One great way to get more activity into your day is to swap regular, seated meetings for walking meetings. A walking meeting is simply that: a meeting that takes place during a walk instead of in an office, boardroom, or coffee shop where meetings are commonly held.

Breaking your day up with intermittent bouts of walking can reduce the damage of spending long periods of time sat down. Walking meetings are also good for productivity and creativity…

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Walking

Why Doctors Love Hiking

April 21, 2016
mountain-hiking

Most doctors agree that eating healthily and exercising makes their job easier. They know that fit, active, healthy people will come to see them less often so they have more time to spend on the people that really need them. In fact, many doctors prescribe exercise to prevent and even cure many mild-to-serious medical conditions.

But what type of exercise do doctors love?  No prizes for guessing it’s walking and, especially, hiking.

Why do doctors have such a big love for hiking? Let’s take a look!

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Health

The Why And How Of Standing Desks

April 18, 2016
standing-desk

Sitting down all day is arguably the most dangerous thing that even health and fitness-conscious people do each and every day. Long periods of sitting can significantly increase your risk of suffering many otherwise avoidable diseases including:

  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Cancer
  • Obesity
  • Strokes
  • Hypertension
  • Poor posture
  • Reduced bone mass
  • Decreased functionality

In addition, sitting down all days makes some muscles in your body very tight and others stretched and weak. In general, the muscles on the back of your body lose the ability to hold you up against the forces of gravity while the muscles on the front of your body become shortened and pull you forwards. As a result, many of us look like we are sat down even when we are stood up. This can lead to poor posture, neck pain, and back pain.

Exercise IS of course beneficial but three to five hours of exercise per week (a typical average) cannot hope to undo the damage caused by sitting for 100 hours or more over the course of seven days.

One possible solution to this sitting epidemic is the standing desk…

Standing desks

Standing desks are, as the name implies, work stations specially designed to allow you to work while stood up. The idea is that, if sitting is so bad, standing must be better. Working at a standing desk is believed to provide several benefits…

1) reduced risk of obesity – in studies, one of the biggest difference between overweight and normal weight people was the amount of time spent seated. Those who sat the most tended to also be the most overweight. Standing engages not only the legs but the core too and this means you’ll burn more calories standing than seated. This increased calorie expenditure means there are fewer excess calories to be converted to fat and that, if you control your calorie intake, you’ll also lose fat faster.

2) Reduced risk of type 2 diabetes and other metabolic problems – it’s not just being overweight that’s bad for your health; a sedentary lifestyle is also a contributing factor. Even if you exercise, if you spend the vast majority of your time sat down, you run the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and other metabolic problems. Working at a standing desk may reduce your risk of developing diseases commonly associated with a sedentary lifestyle.

3) Reduced risk of cardiovascular disease – when you spend long periods sat down, your circulation slows to a crawl. This means oxygenated blood does not make it to your extremities and blood vessels and even your heart can become damaged. Studies reveal that standing is much less likely to lead to cardiovascular disease. One such study dates back to the UK in the 1950s. Bus drivers were far more likely to develop heart disease than bus conductors who spent the majority of the same journey standing.

4) Reduced risk of cancer – long periods of siting statistically increase the risk of developing some cancers including breast and colon cancer. A 2011 study suggests that as many as 49,000 cases of cancer could be directly attributable to long periods of sitting. The underlying mechanism by which sitting increases cancer risk is still unclear, but scientists have found a number of biomarkers, such as C-reactive protein, that are present in higher levels in people who sit for long periods of time. These may be tied to the development of cancer.

5) All-cause mortality – the more time you spend sitting, the more likely you are to die prematurely. In contrast, people who stand and walk more tend to have longer lifespans. A 2010 Australian study, for instance, found that for each extra hour participants spent sitting daily, their overall risk of dying during the study period (seven years) increased by 11 percent. A 2012 study found that if the average American reduced his or her sitting time to three hours per day, life expectancy would climb by two years.

So, does this mean you should throw away your regular workstation and make a standing desk instead? Maybe, but maybe not…

No need to give up sitting completely

Sitting is often described as this “this generations’ smoking” but while research does support the danger of sitting and the benefits of standing more, it’s important to understand that there is more than one solution to this “sitting disease”.

For example, simply getting up and moving around for five minutes every hour can significantly reduce the dangers of prolonged sitting. And what about habitual and professional drivers – they won’t get any benefit from a standing desk!

Standing all day is hard – ask any shop or factory worker. In fact, standing all day can lead to foot problems, varicose veins, back pain and general fatigue – and you will be less inclined to exercise if you are tired all the time. Yes, you might end up sitting less and standing more but if you can’t find the energy to exercise, have you simply swapped one problem for another?

The instant standing desk option

If you do decide you’d like to try a standing desk, you can make a temporary one by simply putting your chair on your desk and your laptop on your chair. This might sound (and look) crazy but is often a viable solution so you can try working while standing and seeing if it’s for you. If this test goes well, you might then like to consider a more permanent solution – Ikea make great standing desks which are, like all their products, very competitively priced.

Be warned – going from sitting all the time to standing is not easy so you should consider alternating an hour of sitting with an hour of standing to acclimate your body to the new demands you are going to place on it. Also, prepare for an initial drop in productivity as you find the set up that works best for you.

Standing more and sitting less will do you nothing but good but you don’t need to jump on the standing desk bandwagon if you don’t want to. There are plenty of other ways to sit less and stand more, none of which require that you refurnish your office. Simply walking over to speak to colleagues face-to-face instead of emailing or phoning them is just one viable option and walking meetings is another. Standing desks might be trendy right now but there is more than one way to skin the sitting proverbial cat!

Fitness

How to Exercise Consistently

April 14, 2016
fitness-running

Let me tell you a secret. When you are trying to lose weight or get fit, the program you follow isn’t as big a deal as many people will lead you to believe. We’re often told that x program is better than y program but that z program leaves both x and y in the shade. And while it MIGHT be true that one program is better than the other, it’ll only be a matter of degrees.

The truth of it is, it’s not the program you follow but your consistency that matters most. So interval training burns more calories than steady-paced cardio? That really doesn’t matter if you cannot exercise consistently. Which is better – 300 calories once a week or 200 five times a week? The answer is pretty obvious even to a math-midget like me!

So how do you ensure your exercise efforts are consistent? How can you avoid your workouts from being flesh-in-the pan events? Use these tips to help improve your workout consistency!

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Running

12 Tips For The Perfect Race Day

April 11, 2016
trekking-walking-running-shoes

Finally, the weeks and months of training have reached their logical conclusion and you are ready to toe the line at a race! Races are great fun and provide an accessible competitive outlet but there is more to successful racing than simply turning up and running. Get the most from your racing experience by following these tips and guidelines.

In reality, your race day preparation started during the week leading up to the event as you tapered your training and addressed all the other little details associated with running in a race but that doesn’t mean you can sit back and relax just yet. As the saying goes, prior planning prevents poor performance so don’t leave everything to the last minute and end up panicking. Panicking uses energy that would be best used running a new PB!

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Walking

Urban Poling 101

April 7, 2016
nordic-walking

As an avid reader of Stepz App blog, you are no doubt aware that walking is arguably one of the best forms of exercise around. Low impact, easily accessible, simple to learn, and no special equipment required, walking is the ultimate in excuse-free workouts and also delivers great fitness and weight loss benefits – especially if you hit that 10,000 step-per-day target.

However, what if you could make walking even safer while making it a better workout? How cool would that be?

Well, you can! All you need to do is grab a pair of walking poles and take up urban poling.

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Nutrition

Why You Should Eat Seasonally

April 4, 2016
food-healthy-man-person

Many chefs and nutrition experts say we should eat seasonally. What they mean is that you should try and eat more of the food that is in season locally. That might mean more apples in the autumn, artichokes in the spring, and squash in the autumn. Obviously, what is seasonal for you depends on where you live as well as the time of year.

This is how mankind used to eat before the advent of food preservation, greenhouses, forced growing, and the ability to transport food from one side of the world to the other in a matter of days or even hours.

Eating seasonally is more than just a trendy food movement; it’s also good for your health, your wallet, and even the environment!

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Running

How And Why To Taper Your Training Before A Race Or Competition

March 31, 2016
training-running-sportswear

There’s only a few weeks ago until the big day. You’ve trained hard and spent many an evening or a precious part of your weekend pounding the pavements in a bid to reach your peak of fitness. You’ve remained injury free and are so into the routine of putting in the miles and intensity that it would almost seem abnormal to stop or ease down. However, an effective tapering program can really make or break how you perform on race day.

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Running

Choosing The Right Workout Shoes

March 28, 2016
mineral-water-running-shoes

Your shoes are arguably the most important part of your workout wardrobe. The right shoes will ensure your feet are supported and cushioned so you are free to focus on developing your fitness, strength or performance, whereas the wrong shoes can be uncomfortable, distracting, and may even cause injury.

Many exercisers make the mistake of assuming that one shoe fits the bill for all types of exercise and while you can “get by” wearing tennis shoes for running or running shoes for dance aerobics classes, the demands of these very different activities means that you’d be better off if you choose a shoe designed specifically for the job in hand. The default shoe for the vast majority of exercisers is running shoes but running shoes are not necessarily your best choice for all forms of exercise.

For best results, choose your exercise shoes according to your workout…

Running

Whether you are an occasional plodder or are training for a marathon, there is a pair of running shoes available that will suit your running style and, hopefully, your budget. Shoes are built on patterns called lasts which vary according to the needs of the runner in question. Some runners need a very cushioned shoe while others need shoes that prevent excessive inward (pronation) or outward (supination) foot roll. Other runners need a shoe that offers a combination of these traits.

When choosing a running shoe, seek out expert advice from an experienced running shoe fitter – usually found at specialist running shoe shops. They can analyse your running style and recommend a range of modals and manufacturers for you to choose from. Make sure you replace your running shoes every 500-miles or so because support and shock absorbency deteriorate with use. Not using your running shoes for other activities will also extend their lifespan…

Group exercise classes

Workouts like step aerobics, Zumba, step, and Body Combat involve a combination of forward, backward and side-to-side movements as well as rapid changes in direction. Where some classes are low impact, others involve a lot of high impact moves.

Being well cushioned, a running shoe may seem like the ideal fit for this type of activity however most of the cushioning is located in the heel when, in these types of classes, you are more likely to be on the balls of your feet. Running shoes also offer very little in the way of lateral support which, combined with a thick out-sole, means ankle and foot stability may be compromised. At best, this means balance can be problematic and, at worst, you may end up turning an ankle.

The ideal shoes for group exercise classes have a low profile, cushioning in the forefoot and heel, may have ankle support, and will definitely be built with lateral movement in mind. They should also fit snugly so that the shoe moves with your foot and not independently of it. Racket sports shoes are a good choice for this type of workout.

Strength training

While shock absorbency is an important factor in many exercise shoes, if you are into your strength training, it’s probably the last thing you need. A running or similarly well-cushioned shoe will compress when loaded which is great for absorbing shock as you run but is the last thing you want when doing heavy squats, deadlifts, or other standing exercises. A shoe that compresses under load will rob you of stability which will reduce the amount of weight you can lift. “Real” weight training shoes have either wooden or non-compressing rubber soles and are also fitted with metatarsal straps to increase foot stability.

If you don’t want to buy a pair of weightlifting shoes, you can get a similarly stable effect by wearing minimalist running shoes which have no cushioning or heel, or low tech training shoes that have very little cushioning.

Cycling

If you are stomping down hard on your pedals in an effort to ride your bike (spinning, mountain, road or otherwise) as fast as you can, the last thing you want to do is waste energy unnecessarily. As mentioned before, running shoes compress when heavily loaded and that makes them less than ideal for cycling. A good cycling shoe will offer support without much cushioning so that all of your energy is directed into your pedals and not soaked up in the spongy soles of your shoes. The soles should also be stiff to further minimize loss of pedalling energy.

Cycling shoes are normally used in conjunction with toe clips or straps or “clipless” which means they have a mechanism in the sole that will lock your feet onto your pedals to maximize pedalling efficiency. Although both types of shoe can take some getting used to, your perseverance will soon pay off as your peddling technique will become much more effective.

Walking

Of course, you can walk in running shoes but if you are serious about walking your way to fitness, you’d be much better served by a pair of specialist walking shoes or even boots. Walking and running are mechanically very different activities and the design of a walking shoe will reflect this; walking shoe out-soles tend to be more rugged, there is more support, and the shoes themselves are usually more hard-wearing to reflect that many people prefer to walk cross country rather on roads and paths.

Although you may feel buying a specialist pair of shoes or boots for walking is an unnecessary expense, as you can indeed walk in your running shoes, it’s worth remembering that a good pair of walking shoes can last years (my walking boots are over 20-years old!) and wearing walking shoes will save wear and tear on your probably expensive running shoes.

Racket sports

Like group exercise classes, racket sports involve multi-directional movement, often combined with a lot of impact. The rapid stop/start movements also mean that the ends of your toes can take a lot of punishment as they are rammed up against the inside of your shoes. Thankfully, racket sports shoes are designed specifically to offer lateral support, shock absorbency, and also cradle your foot to minimize movement within the shoe. The uppers of racket sports shoes are also usually strategically reinforced in key stress areas to minimize wear and tear and soles tend to me made of very grippy, non-marking rubber.

Owning more than one type of workout shoe might seem extravagant but the reality is your workouts will be more productive if you wear the right shoes for your chosen activity. Not only that, anything that potentially reduces your risk of injury is always going to be a smart investment.

Fitness

Dealing With An Exercise Injury

March 24, 2016
knee-pain

Exercise injuries happen to the best of us. Even if you train hard and smart, warm up properly, work on your flexibility and restoration/recovery, eat right, and get plenty of sleep, sometimes it’s just YOUR turn. Being injured is no fun at all but, and assuming your injury is not super-serious, there are several things you can do that will speed your recovery so you can get back into exercise as soon as possible.

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