Wednesday, August 24, 2011

On the Path to Lean - what does that mean? Reflecting half way there on whyfore and whatfor

Getting Lean. It's what i'm focused on now, and building strength on top of that. Sounds so clear and strong a resolution. But this focus began to emerge, only half baked, end of april, once the shoulders i'd been rehabbing started to feel almost usable again, and i did my first round of bioletics blood work back. I'd been working out with the ineffably named War Machine for a near month on the road (a life saver that thing in a hotel room); i was feeling stronger than i had in awhile - and I decided i wanted to explore lean. What does that mean? going from 19-20% bf to maybe 14-12% ish - not sure, but i'll know when i get there. But why am i trying, and why talk about it mid way in? That's what this post is about. I hope.

I am interested in the relationship to be found between leanness and strength. Leanness and potentially muscle. I just saw a very lean illegidly 114 pound gal deadlift 335lbs.

just imagine how much more this pull would have been if the lifter

I heard the other day about a gal, Valerie Hedlund, at 125lbs and 5 foot 4 doing the women's "beast challenge" (discussed here with fellow women's beast tamer, Asha Wagner).

So, one can be small(er than me, it seems) and strong(er than me). Can i? What is that process like?

I'd like to share some of my process so far on this path. I feel like i'm at a half way point, so a good time to check in for later reflection.

Goals, Focus, Decision. One of the things i've come to in this process is made a descision about my strength practice vs my nutrition practice: hitting my lean target is my priority; strength goal is secondary to that. If i hit my lean target and i simply cannot get my strength target from there, well that's information, and i'll go from there. But i have no idea if that is possible or not to put the two together. So i'm not gonna prejudge that: let's go there and find out.

Fuzzy Start. Getting to that decision was not obvious initially, so i'm gonna come back to this fridgid clarity of purpose. But no, in fact the process of getting clear on process / reality of practice, was not even on the horizon. When i got my blood work results back and had my first conversation with the bioletics folks about my results and my goals, all i knew is that i wanted to burn some fat: i was frustrated with where the scales just seemed stuck, especially as i'd been picking up my workouts again with my arms much more back in commission. They made some interesting suggestions about tuning my diet first and foremost to get some of my target levels into the zone i wanted, and second how doing so would likely let me get onto the path.

The Path The suggested changes to my diet felt a bid odd. A colleague of mine, Zach Salazar, right at this time recommended the Perfect Diet - which i read. My take? some really interesting reading, interesting notes on iodine and sellenium (that i'll come back to in a future post), but gosh, i just can't do the legumes are evil thing or that whole grains (i mean whole, particularly sprouted) grains are evil either.  Nutrient timing, a la espoused in Precision Nutrition, i'm all for; cutting out starchy carbs or really reducing them when trying to lean out - all over that too. But evil?

What that book did foreground for me as well was the introduction to coconut oil and the invention (i'm calling it that ) of Fat Tea, discussed here.  Did that help me lose weight? No. Which i'll come onto in a moment when we discuss "less"

Back on the Road  and grooving some " The second thing that happened post biotest was that i was back on the road. Usually this is a nightmare for good food. So i took it as an to explore fasting again. What i learned is that Brad Pilon is right: fasting once (he adds "or twice") a week can really kick up some fat burning goals.

Now as a gal i'll say timing one's fast not to collide with one's pre-period may be a good idea to avoid heavy metal headache death, but otherwise, good to go, and your mileage may vary.

Eating LESS. Happiness for me was getting back from several weeks of work travel and finding that i was a bit lighter than when i'd left. Hmm. This is when i clued in to a really really really basic principle but at a very applied level: eating less works, and i had to eat less.

I had kinda deluded myself into thinking swapping out some stuff for medium chain triglycerides and all sorts of fatty goodness would somehow take the place of - eating less.  But no. Nothing really moved. If we're not losing weight; we're maintaining, we're consuming at a level place for energy expenditure to more or less equal energy intake. Bummer.

Bummer Bummer

Eating less works. So I refocused to going for less, deliberately, focusing on Precision Nutrition principles of especially starchy carbs ONLY post a REAL workout, and greens and protein and any feeding along with healthy fats and, other than that - less. Of everything. With the occasional period of not eating thrown in - sometimes half a day of stop; sometimes more.  When i saw the weight line moving - finally  and consistently if slowly - this is when i dialed in the focus: i want to explore lean - real, athletic lean.

Exploring Lean. It's important for me to note that it was only when i arrived back at a weight i'd been at a few years ago when i was prepping for the tactical strength challenge and felt really good in my body that i thought i'm here but this isn't it. This isn't *lean* in the way i'm thinking about it. I guess part of me has been saying: i've been here before; i have had a challenge holding here before, and i don't want that to be the case; instead, i want to keep going; i'm not done with this, this time, yet.

So, what i want to know is: what does it feel like to be leaner AND stronger. I won't say "but leaner first" - i will say, with lean as the priority. My hope/goal is to hit there sooner than later - in a few months - and still have more time to build up the strength in a leanness buffer zone.

What is lean? why is that important? You know there are many health benefits assigned to leanness, true, but one doesn't have to hit below the teens for a gal to have them. It looks nice to some, especially with some muscle to shape spaces, but one doesn't have to do that to look nice or be stronger. In fact some argue that leanness may challenge capacity for strength gains. But, as John Berardi has said when he talks about his bi-annual fat shredding, he talks about it as a discipline too, along with all the health benefits. I think that is part of my motivation now, too. I want to explore this not just as an end, but as a practice. A practice of getting there.

Strength Practice Right now, i'm also back into training Return of the Kettlebell and i know what i'd like to achieve - but originally i thought i'd have till next July to hit that goal; now the meet time is moved up to April - so we'll see what can be done between now and then on the strength side. To be clear, maintaining health is the uber-if-implicit priority. Everything else bows to that. All things being equal though, lean, with strength, get to lean, focus more on strength, with lean in maintenance mode.

Why Lean?
I remember clearly how much i weighed when i was running cross country in grad school. I feel like i'm in much better shape and actually stronger now than i was then - and also heavier. So i'm curious: what is possible at that leanocity in terms of strength, with steady deliberate practice? As a more experienced practitioner now than ever a few years ago, can my training be even better than it has been - while saner and healthier (no more hinky shoulder stuff; they're still not 100%).

Tools of Support to Dial in Lean
Isn't it amazing how something as simple as burning calories can be so effortful? Simple (eat less) but effortful. All the hormonal cues and hedonic practices signaling all over the place not to stop the fuel; to enjoy the tasty succulent goodness of it all - that this one little thing couldn't possibly make that much difference. Uh huh.

SO here's what i'm using to help me monitor progress and practice:
Withings Scale  This scale is so cool in design but it's one particular function that makes it awesome: local wifi. That's right step on it and forget it. One's weight, bodyfat and bmi is hived off to the Withings server where it can be viewed as a set of points and the all important trend line over time: despite ups and downs, the trend is DOWN.

What really surprised me is that the bf% calculator (impedence) with its variety of algorithmns is pretty good - off a couple of percent compared with 7 point caliper testing (again, fully described in precision nutrition) - but good enough to see the trend.

There's work that's shown that folks who check their weight more frequently have better success at sticking with their weight loss goals than those who check less frequently. I need to find that reference for y'all...

Zeo. One of the biggest pieces of the workout/nutrition puzzle for me that's been coming into focus is just how critical recovery is. Sleep is also important for weight loss. Let me rephrase that: suffient number and completeness of sleep cycles is key. With the zeo, i can see at a glance the quality of the cycles i have had and can correlate that with what i ate and especially what i did (or didn't do) the day before. One big deal: like Zeo sleepologist Stephan Fabregas has made clear, caffeine can bugger up one's deep sleep. Since pulling back on any caffeine after five pm, sleep cycles have been better and less interupted. That's better for weight loss and muscle building. AND i can see this against the scale readings in terms of weight fluctuations.

Workout Log. For many folks keeping a workout log is a reflex. What i've started to note in mine is both my workout days AND my not workout days in terms of whether or not i'm feeling fresh or fatigued; whether it's raining (default in the uk) or not. Hell if it was easy to track atmospheric presure i would do that too. I'm curious: does that affect work/recovery? The tool i'm using is a very simple daily calendar ap on an ipad (called maxjournal - no affiliate connection)

FitBit and NEPA's. I've become very keen to see if "every little helps" when one is pushing the edge towards lean, so non-exercise physical activity - and time of movement is of interest to me. FitBit, as described in the "is 10k a magic bullet for steps" article makes it easy to track steps taken, intensity of steps in any period, and when these steps are taken. My question is: does sticking with the 8k steps min a day (the low end of the 8-11k prescription from that article) help make the differences to leanness or not as per Chris Shuggart's contention?

On another point: seeing the numbers on the fit bit through the course of the day i have noticed does give me a nudge to get my stepping on if it drops off.

I also find it a particularly soothing thing to have for my recovery days to show that i'm getting Active level movement in. It's a good device

Resting heart rate and grip. Two things i've only been monitoring casually are my resting heart rate and grip strength. Time to start logging these too i suppose. Resting heart rate is a long time indicator of imrproving cardiovascular well being. So a resting heart rate that goes down overall sounds like a good thing. If it's a-typically high, and it's a workout day, a good idea to switch to mobility practice that day.  A more fine grained instrument is heart rate variability - and really i haven't been tracking that at all (wrote about it here for those interested).

Instead, i've been looking occasionally at grip strength at the start of the day: i know how close i am to jamming a gripper shut: ancient russian sports science says if you're grips worse on a given day, do something else than heavy stuff (auto-regulation).  Even clearer: if there's a gripper i can close pretty regularly and then can't that day? definitely a day needing some more recovery. Walk, bike, throw frisbee, do mobility. Read a book.

Data Integration
Outputs from many of these tools are being integrated by others. Our lab is looking at things like what's the best way to represent all this data: weight, blood pressure, steps, sleep, heart rate, breathing etc etc for people to make sense of it.  There are some apps for iphone/android that are letting one see individual graphs from many of these sources in one place. Runkeeper is at the forefront of these efforts so far.

In the meantime, i'm looking at simple things like:
  • was my food intake compliant yesterday with the PN habits about protein, greens fats and when carbs
  • what's the reading on the scale this morning relative to that? up or down?
  • what's the zeo say about sleep? good or not?
  • how am i actually feeling? chipper or wiped? 
  • if i'm dubious, i check my grip. When i'm sitting at night, i check my resting heart rate. 
Every fortnight i also do calliper measures for the 7point scale, and measure my main measure areas: hips and waist. Those are recorded, too. They are more consistent than weight.

Daily weight /weighings: motivation
Fortnightly measures: validation

How's that for an epigram?

Progress is slow but consistent. It's slow because *i* have to re-adapt to consistently eating less than before it seems, and moving more. I feel like i mini-plateau rather frequently, and that can be a bit discouraging.  For folks who may take a week to lose a pound, it take me nearly a month now to really break a pound plateau consistently. But then there's that trend line. And my other measurements that say "it's working; don't stop"

As said i'm at a half way point just passed where i've been before when training, but not this consistently, and not below that level so consistently.

My strength training has also been tuned with notes from last time with RTK from Randy Hauer (recommended coach) and double press coaching from colleague buddy Ken Froese (you remember him? the man who trained for Spite, and triple double beast pressed?).

Patience i'm learning really is a virtue, and perhaps all this data collecting is just a way to help not go mad with the pace of progress: yes there is progress in both strength and leanness. I will arrive at the one, and continue with the other.

Whither, Voyager?
This really is an experiment to go further than i've gone with a deliberate quest to explore leanness and strength. So this is new to me. This kind of discipline of eating is new - since typically i'd be done by now - i'd be at my goal weight and just going for more strength.

Reminds me of when i was a kid and i had to let go of this branch and to get back to the ground. I fell, and have this clear memory of thinking "this should have stopped by now" but i kept falling.  That's kinda what this as like (though not quite so easy). I've been to this point before, and i'm finding that experience seems to be sharpening my focus for where i want to go now/next.

So why this post now? Because i guess it is at a point where i'd previously say, well that's done, and to see it now as only half done, is an interesting perspective shift. And i'm a little nervous.

I'm also wondering about the experience of a goal becoming clearer once one has passed the point of  the previously known to be possible - if others reading have experienced this, and what happened?

Take aways for now
If you're interested in body comp work and strength work,
  • the number one place to start and spend time is still nutrition.
  • Then dialing in recovery awareness from a workout - including when to stop a set.
  • Then the workout practice itself. I find myself really enjoying the skills focus right now as i rebuild my shoulder strength. Maybe we can talk about that another day.
Within that, eating less works. Now buddy brad (pilon of eat stop eat) likes for weight loss work to eat some less overall, but to combine that with fasting full 24 once or twice a week. Awesome. Me, i like as said following the Precision Nutrition hueristics and kicking in a fast once or twice a month, and some micro stop eats within that.  I find i'm just not working hard enough at this point to give myself the license to do starchy carbs right now more than half a spud at dinner if i feel like it. Even weekend pizza has become a more monthly-if-that than weekly or biweekly thing.

Moving more but not so hard. I'm keen to see if NEPAs will continue to help keep the trend going down the way i want for fat and up for lean. Blending nepas with some intervals/faster cardio a couple times a week? i was doing that till my heavy workout days got heavier - so we'll see. Recovery is still king and gaiting my workouts to support recovery is affecting everything from intervals to volume to nepas.

I guess that's about it for now.

It's kinda risky to report on a mid point. What if i don't make it and have no ta-da to report? I guess i'm also really then posting to see if i'm not alone in going past a place one has been - higher up, further in, and if i am indeed on a Righteous Path.

Hope so.

Best in your practice,

Related posts:
since i mentioned shoulder rehab, here's some stories

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Is 10k steps a day really a magic health bullet? Catrine Tudor-Locke suggests this may be the wrong question.

We hear a lot about the value of getting ten thousand steps a day. Pedometers are being sold increasingly as a way to track progress towards that magic 10k. But is there any basis in this assertion of ten thousand steps that something wonderful happens at 10k that doesn't anywhere before (or after)? And are all such steps in that 10k created equal? Are all or any of these steps the same as NEPAs or  non-exercise physical activity (overview here at the movement carried out over the course of a day that is outside deliberate exercise activity, but that seems to have significant value in helping one get and stay lean?

ResearchBlogging.orgIn July 2011 a trio of journal articles lead by  long time step/health researcher Catrine Tudor-Locke  have come out looking at the step question, literally “how many steps are enough”  - one geared at kids, the other at adults and another at elders and special populations (citations below). In this post we’re going to look over the work on steps for adults. As with just about everything, the answer to the question “is it 10k??” is “it depends.” And that perhaps more interestingly, there seems to be a gradient of effect for things like weight loss, after which more is not more.

So let’s begin with  a few terms. NEPA we’ve already met. The other is MVPA - moderate to vigerous physical activity. Both are ways of describing level of effort and are important measures when talking about the effectiveness of stepping out.

There’s a kind of interesting component to trying to figure out “how many steps is enough?” - the question might be “what is someone trying to achieve”?

How to figure out Steps
CORRELATION? So we can consider what do most people who are healthy do - measure these steps and extrapolate out from that to try to determine a correlation. Indeed this is what various mortality studies have done in various parts of the world: look at the self reports of people’s activities, compare that mortality rates and say heck folks who have these many NEPAs seem to live X% longer with Y% less incidence of these types of disease. Maybe that’s because of the walking or related effort.

DELIBERATE EFFECT? Other types of measures are to do deliberate tests: we’ll monitor how much these folks walk and eat, and we’ll ask group A to walk X steps a day and the other group, we won’t encourage to walk. At the end of a given period we’ll check a bunch of measures from blood to weight to body fat and see what difference anything made.

SELF-REPORTING VS MEASURING? One of the strategies here is also to consider different ways of measuring NEPAs or steps. Recently there has been more literature where participants have pedometers but the large-scale studies described above are based on self-reports of times and distances of various activities and estimates around these. Also, not all pedometers measure steps in quite the same ways. So there’s some fuzz in the data. Science isn’t always an exact science.

TRANSLATION? Another fuzzy strategy is to try to translate one type of activity for another. If for instance 30 mins a day of MVPA is seen as an important measure of health, into  how many steps (and at what speed) does that translate activity translate?

EQUATION?  if daily MVPA is supposed to be over and above the NEPAs, what’s the amount of NEPAs and how translate that to steps? Total steps potentially becomes two different kinds of step: NEPA + MVPA = total. 

The authors of the How Many Steps studies considered each of these components to make the best case they could for their recommendations.

Normative Data - just checking
For adults under 65, an intense review of internationally published paper came to an average of 9,448 steps/day. This surprised me. When the data is restricted to the US, the average is 5600 steps/day. That seems more familiar based on what we see of geek steps in our lab. For context, Japanese are at 7200 and Western Austrailians 9600. Ineresting, no? What information i do NOT have is how these step numbers correlate to other health markers: the studies just considered daily activity steps. Alas. But it does give us a pretty good sense of practice differences internationally.

Grading the Normative Data
The authors of the current study have been interested in steps for some time. Over the course of 2004 − 2005 they have developed and tuned a scale for understanding step ranges and have proposed

  • 1) less than 5,000 steps/day (‘sedentary’); with less than 2,500 steps/day (‘basal activity’) and 2,500-4,999 steps/day (‘limited activity’)
  • 2) 5,000-7,499 steps/day (‘low active’);
  • 3) 7,500-9,999 steps/day (‘somewhat active’);
  • 4) >10,000-12,499 steps/day (‘active’); and
  • 5) ≥12,500 steps/day (‘highly active’). 
This means, as the authors point out, the US is overall “low active”

Why bother with these Steps? Such graduation can help understanding the effects of particular interventions: if 5000 steps a day has X% incidence of cardiovascular risk, but “somewhat active” means that incidence level goes down by a factor of 10, but that between somewhat active and active there’s only a tiny difference in cardiac incidence, then one’s focus may be to get folks just to somewhat active rather than pushing to active. Indeed, 2500 steps a day improvement does seem to show modest weight loss benefit but real blood pressure improvements.

Moderate Intensity Walking - Where MVPA begins
From the controlled experiments apparently one of the attributes confirmed is that if one is hitting 100steps a minute, one is at a suitable cadence to hit the MVPA. There’s an extension peeping up here: 3000steps within 30mins is looking good for the MVPA part of the total step equation. Doing this stepping in ten minute blocks is also ok.

A great way i’ve been noticing to get up my cadence without effort is to practice barefoot walking as described in part IV of the recent discussion about barefoot running: stride changes to soften any heel striking and move more to the mid/forefoot.

Total Counts: is it 10k?
Another extension of the above gradation of walking values is a good daily step target: 3k at MVPA + the high end of “sedentary” 5K steps = a total of 8k.
that assumes a 30min/day activity level; some guidance is apparently 60mins. So we have a range of 3-6K in MVPA (100steps/min) + 5k = 8-11k steps a day, assuming the MVPA components.

As a side note, the authors show that in studies that have attached accelerometers and pedometers to people have shown that getting the right amount of MVPA seems to correlate with folks getting 7000-8000 steps a day. (accelerometers by the way are like the sensors on some smart phones that let them play light saber - detecting how fast and in what direction something is moving)  In other words, as the authors note, the original framing that set “10k” steps as “active” people, may actually start as low as at 7k a day when MVPA is added in. We are getting another validation of the 8-11k heuristic proposed for MVPA + NEPA (or “free living activity” as the authors call it).

As the authors note, people do way more things than just walk. So why care about steps so much? The authors suggest “bipedal locomotion” as a thought. We fundamentally get around and move around by walking. Walking is also apparently the most frequently reported leisure activity.

Connection with Weight Loss

Here’s some related work that the authors note in studies around stepping patterns and BMI (body mass index). Let me quote the passage:
Krumm et al. [29] examined the relationship between pedometer-determined steps/day and body composition variables in 93 post-menopausal women. In relation to BMI, a linear relationship was observed such that women who took 5,000-7,500 steps/day had a significantly lower BMI than those who took < 5,000 steps/day. Further, women who took 7,500-9,999 steps/day had a significantly lower BMI than those who took 5,000-7,500 steps/day. There was no significant difference in BMI between women who took 7,500 -9,999 steps/day and those who took greater than 10,000 steps/day.
SO this result is pretty important: BMI is a standard measure of bodyfat associated with height and weight . There are some folks who argue reasonably that there are limitations with BMI: that someone who is really in shape packing considerable relative to body fat will show up as having a higher BMI than an average person at that height and weight. Yes, this is true. But given that, that usually indicates that person is likely also pretty healthy/active and will be using other measures than BMI to assess their health, fitness and bf%. So for more average folks (the majority of us), BMI is not a bad marker of how well one is doing in terms of weight.
What that metric about steps to bmi tells us is that there are two important ranges where one can achieve *signficant* benefit: the first area is 5000-7000 is a HUGE difference than 5k and below: women have statistically significantly lower BMIs - changes in whole bmi numbers are associated with real pounds of weight loss.To think that there is yet ANOTHER significant difference from that first group to the 7500-9999 thousand steppers is golden.

For gals then thinking about wanting to change our BMI, stepping up a level is important. Just as critically though is that there is NOT seen to be a greater benefit to bmi after hitting the 10k mark. More is not always more for everything.

Again, the 8-11k a day is sounding very beneficial for correlations with blood pressure, bmi and general health.

Enough or Too Few?
Indeed, the authors consider reframing the question of how many steps do we need, to how many steps is too few? For example, fewer than 5k steps has greater risk of  particular cardiovascular incidents.

Likewise encouraging folks who wish to see blood pressure or weight changes may be directed to seek particular increments rather than just going for a total. And similarly, it’s possible to get that 10k value without getting the 3k that seem necessary for MVPA work.

MAKING IT REAL: FitBit (and Zeo)
I’ve been focusing a lot over the past several months now on my non-excercise physical activity - how many steps do i get total; what percentage of them is MVPA vs NEPA and how do these simple totals connect with my lean down goals for right now. TO monitor this rather than kid myself with well i think i moved a lot today,  i’ve gotten a FitBit. In fact we have a bunch in our lab.

The idea with the fitbit is that it’s both a step counter in the pedometer sense and an accelerometer - so it takes into account movement that a pedometer would not track - it can assess if you’re running or going up stairs or walking. It also calculates calories burned and distance travelled, and if you have its usb antenna plugged into a computer, it will wirelessly upload the fitbit data. Oh, and it also monitors sleep - sort of - but i much prefer zeo for this (zeo discussed here and here). 

OPEN data - an aside note: zeo and fitbit both let people keep their own data. this may sound odd but try doing that with body bug - another self monitoring tool. This open data approach means that other applications can be built (like run keeper) that integrate the data from both zee and fitbit to make it easy to see how various parts of one’s performance are affecting the other.

Preliminary Conclusions with FitBit - one of the cool things about the fitbit is that if i check it and i see where i’m at - if it’s on the low side, i start to make plans for where i can get more steps in during the day and after work. If i have a workout planned for that day, i may let myself off the hook a bit. Now knowing about mvpa i can do that.

I got asked recently if FitBit counts kettlebell movements - it’s great for swings - but i’ve actually NOT been wearing it during workouts - i want to focus on movement OUTSIDE my workouts. When i’m walking and not just moving about the office for instant at work, my walking pace already is generally over the 100 steps/min -  so i can usually be assured i’m getting in that 3k minimum of MVPA - but i don’t have to trust myself - the FitBit provides a chart of exactly when my steps were taken and how many in any given block; it also estimates activity level within these blocks.

Results: i have been deliberately trying to lean out over the past few months - something i'll write about in the near future. The main thing contributing to that leaning out is food: eating strategies, combining precision nutrition food approaches with as Brad Pilon puts it occasionally stopping eating for 18-24 hours in a week. Recently this once a week fast is something John Berardi of Precision Nutrition has been trying, too while minimizing workouts as an experiment. So let's just put that one on the table as it were: what i eat or don't eat is plainly the biggest contributor to my fat carving progress.

So where do the steps come in?
I really cannot say if my progress towards lean is better for getting in 8 or more k of steps per day. I know that i was motivated to check this out when a recent t-nation article by Lonnie Lowery suggested that when someone hits a wall with lowering their caloric intake to about as low as it can safely go, the only other place left to help the fat burn along is to raise caloric burn levels, and that he noticed something that makes a difference is what happens if NEPAs start to drop below 7k a day (see the NEPA factor in this article). Ah ha, thought I.

Recall above that there are two zones of steps - both under 10k but above 5k that have best effect on BMI - why, they haven't said, but perhaps there's something special getting tweaked from that kind of activity that has a metabolic switch to it. Ok. I'll go for that.

Beyond possible contribution to fat burning, I tend to feel better generally in terms of movement; i know that if i get the steps in throughout the day rather than just end of the day i feel fresher. So i’d add that in- frequency of movement throughout the day -  as a variable beyond total steps, amount in MVPA, in figuring out quality of steps.

To answer the question we started with, ten k a day is certainly a fine number for steps, but what Tudor-Locke's and Colleagues research and literature review shows us is that, more particularly, there are ranges of values and qualities within those ranges that will help yield the effects we may desire for health and wellbeing.
  • There is a way to think of steps in terms of gradations from sedentary to active
  • within these gradations are associated particular health benefits - after which these particular benefits no longer seem to accrue. That's not to say one shouldn't walk more that this level; just that the benefits for certain markers seem to tail off from that activity alone.
  • An effective target seems to be 3-6k steps in the MVPA range and another 5k in "free living activity" steps (what we might also think of as NEPAs).
  • A fitbit makes it very easy to see whether one is getting that range daily and whether one is getting that minimal MVPA 3k portion in particular. Keeping a record is a great way to measure and validate progress.
Take Home: when stepping out and up, rather than shoot for 10k right off the bat, we may want to think about milestones: first to get from basal 2500 to 5000, focusing on upping the 1000k blocks in the MVPA range. Then, for more health benefit, to get above those sedentary 5k a day towards 8000, with three k in the MVPA zone, and from there, if we wish to do the best we can with our walking health benefits, to 11k  going from 3k-6k in the MVPA zone.

Tudor-Locke C, Craig CL, Aoyagi Y, Bell RC, Croteau KA, De Bourdeaudhuij I, Ewald B, Gardner AW, Hatano Y, Lutes LD, Matsudo SM, Ramirez-Marrero FA, Rogers LQ, Rowe DA, Schmidt MD, Tully MA, & Blair SN (2011). How many steps/day are enough? For older adults and special populations. The international journal of behavioral nutrition and physical activity, 8 (1) PMID: 21798044

Tudor-Locke C, Craig CL, Aoyagi Y, Bell RC, Croteau KA, De Bourdeaudhuij I, Ewald B, Gardner AW, Hatano Y, Lutes LD, Matsudo SM, Ramirez-Marrero FA, Rogers LQ, Rowe DA, Schmidt MD, Tully MA, & Blair SN (2011). How many steps/day are enough? For older adults and special populations. The international journal of behavioral nutrition and physical activity, 8 (1) PMID: 21798044

Tudor-Locke C, Craig CL, Beets MW, Belton S, Cardon GM, Duncan S, Hatano Y, Lubans DR, Olds TS, Raustorp A, Rowe DA, Spence JC, Tanaka S, & Blair SN (2011). How Many Steps/day are Enough? For Children and Adolescents. The international journal of behavioral nutrition and physical activity, 8 (1) PMID: 21798014


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