Recently, my sister-in-law visited me while testing out her new gadget for achieving physical fitness, The Body Bugg. The device measures her steps among other movements throughout the day and using a computer, she can input her food intake and calculate her excesses and deficiencies. During their visit, my sister-in-law and her husband went on multiple long walks to make certain she completed her 10,000 steps per day.
And, at a recent business conference a colleague's wife had a similar device called a Fit Bit. She was adorning the device at the conference cocktail party because she had to ensure that every step she took went toward her goal of 20,000 steps per day.
Although all the physical movement that these devices promote is healthy, it seemed like a lot of time for minimal returns -- are you really going to achieve physical fitness and enhance multiple factors of well-being by simply walking? This all made me wonder if there was scientific evidence to legitimize all the time and effort spent reaching a steps-per-day goal -- how reasonable are these plans, if they aren't efficient with your time? After all, the No. 1 reason that most people don't workout is lack of time. Fitting in a workout in the midst of commuting to work, picking up the kids from school, checking emails, eating and sleeping- there's just never enough time for that workout, much less 5,000 steps, if you're short on your daily goal.
My personal workouts have undergone a major revolution over the past few years. In 2010, I started running -- a lot. I ran a couple of half marathons and when I felt that my body wasn't responding well to all the running, I turned to triathlons. I really enjoyed the racing but found it nearly impossible to accommodate the hours of training. I was running, biking, swimming and weight training for about 10-12 hours per week.
Last year, time constraints forced me to give up the hobby and seek an alternative for staying shape. I began working with a trainer who too me through a quick, results-oriented high intensity interval training (HIIT) workout. My workouts were now only 30 minutes in length, four days per week, by my results were more intense than when I was fitting in hours and hours at the gym. I rapidly became more toned in my arms, legs and mid-section. I found my new workout and it fit my schedule.
Recently, my trainer broke his foot and I was left on my own to complete my HIIT program. Searching for inspiration, I came across the "seven-minute workout," published in the New York Times and scientifically tested by the American Academy of Sports Medicine. I found it to be very similar to the types of moves I was doing in the gym with my trainer, using my own body weight as the resistance in my resistance training and completing several exercises in rapid succession at a high intensity. After seven minutes, it's a great workout and repeating the workout two or three times yields even better results.
So, that begs the questions: Rather than spending hours chasing 10,000 steps a day, do you think you have time for a highly-effective seven-minute routine?
Researchers at the American Academy of Sports Medicine (ACSM) have uncovered conclusive evidence that you can become physically fit in just seven minutes a day with a workout that requires no more than 10 feet of space, a kitchen chair and a wall.
The workout is based on the high intensity interval training concept -- mixing periods of high intensity exercise with short periods of rest. In the seven-minute workout, 12 exercises are performed at 30-second intervals with 10 seconds of rest in between. Exercisers should note that those high intensity intervals should be excruciating -- according to one of the lead researchers of the study, who told the New York Times, "intensity hovers at about an eight on a discomfort scale of one to 10."
Researchers and innovators in exercise science toil over quick and easy solutions for people struggling with physical activity. With more than 65 percent of the population overweight or obese, solutions have to breakthrough the most common excuses. Everyone knows they should workout -- it's good for your heart, reduces risk of disease, improves your mood and sculpts your body. These reasons however do not seem to be enough to get people off the couch and moving.
Many might argue that this simplest solution, harnessed by many fitness devices, already exists, striving to achieve 10,000 steps per day (roughly 5 miles), throughout your daily routine. This theory dates back to 1965 when Y. Hatano, a Japanese researcher, promoted "manpo-kei pedometers." "Manpo-kei" meaning "10,000 steps meter." Beginning in 1985, when his research was accepted as proving that 10,000 steps a day was the proper balance of caloric intake and activity-based caloric expenditure to maintain a healthy body, the pedometers were recognized for accuracy and trademarked. Today, this antiquated concept is touted by many weight loss management centers and even health care professionals and practitioners as a sufficient physical activity for clients and patients seeking weight loss and management. However, in the age of sitting and surplus food, 10,000 steps just doesn't seem to be enough, and it certainly won't deliver optimal results.
In the age of sitting at work and then sitting some more at home, 10,000 steps should be a regular part of your lifestyle, in addition to regular physical activity. Exercise, not just movement, is essential to physical health. So, why not strive for your 10,000 steps per day and, while you're at it, enhance your physical fitness by devoting seven minutes in your day to a quick, effective workout routine -- make it 14 or 21 minutes, as recommended by the ACSM, and you just might achieve Madonna's coveted arms and Jillian Michael's taut tummy, and all in less time than a TV sitcom.