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The Lean Plate Club: Sally Squires

Week 7: Step It Up

Tuesday, May 11, 2004; Page HE03

A new study by University of Tennessee researchers finds that middle-aged women who log at least 10,000 steps a day are more likely than those who take fewer steps to be at a healthy body weight and to have a lower percentage body fat and smaller waists.

Other research suggests that men and women of all ages benefit from taking more steps daily. In February, a different team at Tennessee found that obesity rates were low in Amish farm couples, who eschew modern conveniences: They take more than 10,000 steps per day and do nearly all their work by hand.

_____Fit For Fun_____
Week 1: Activity Log (PDF)
Week 2: Activity Log (PDF)
Week 3: Activity Log (PDF)
Week 4: Activity Log (PDF)
Week 5: Activity Log (PDF)
Week 6: Activity Log (PDF)
Week 7: Activity Log (PDF)
Week 8: Activity Log (PDF)
The Post's Sally Squires discusses the Lean Plate Club's eight-week "Fit for Fun Challenge."
Physical Fitness Melissa Johnson, executive director of the President's Council on Physical Fitness was online to discuss how to get more active every day.
_____Special Report_____
Fit For Fun Challenge

_____Full Coverage_____
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More Stories

_____Sally Squires_____
Past Lean Plate Club Columns
Lean Plate Club Discussion Transcripts

Welcome to Week Seven of the Fit for Fun Lean Plate Club Challenge. It's never too late to begin this eight-week challenge, designed to add small but regular bouts of physical activity, muscle strengthening (including push-ups) and flexibility to your daily regimen.

Goals, instructions, tips and printable forms are available free at www.washingtonpost.com/leanplateclub. Sign up at the same Web address for the free weekly Lean Plate Club e-mail newsletter, which features more information.

So how do you know if you're taking enough steps daily? Studies suggest that walking about 30 minutes a day -- the amount recommended by the U.S. Surgeon General and the American College of Sports Medicine -- will bring most people close to 10,000 steps. Anything under 7,000 steps is considered sedentary, except for older adults.

If you're up to speed with the Fit for Fun Challenge, you're already at about 20 minutes of daily walks, thanks to a 10-minute stroll at lunch and two five-minute walks around the office mid-morning and mid-afternoon.

There's another option, of course: Get a pedometer. They cost about $10 to $35, far less than a gym membership or even a weekly exercise class.

Plus, "people like pedometers," said Dixie L. Thompson, director of the Center for Physical Activity and Health at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville and author of the study on middle-aged women, which appears in this month's issue of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. "It helps hold them accountable. . . . And we all need to be held accountable in some way."

A pedometer also easily tracks short bouts of physical activity that can add up big time for those who spend their days desk-bound. "People often find it difficult to block out large chunks of time for exercise," Thompson said. "So when we can divide it up into shorter blocks, they find it easier to reach their accumulated goals."

Here's what else you need to know about pedometers:

Pick a decent model. Accuracy varies widely. In a test of 13 pedometer models published in February, University of Tennessee researchers found that the Kenz Lifecorder, Yamax Digi-Walkers SW-200 and SW-701, New Lifestyles NL-2000, and Sportline 330 performed most accurately.

Wear it correctly. Holding the pedometer in your hand won't do. Ideal placement is at the waist, just above one hip. Waistband too thick for the pedometer? Wear it on your underwear. Just make sure the pedometer is secure. If the waistband is loose, steps are likely to be underestimated, Thompson said.

No magic numbers. Studies suggest that taking 10,000 steps per day has both health benefits (lower blood pressure, improved blood sugar levels) and weight benefits. Plus, walking "gives a feeling of being invigorated without being tired," Thompson said. But "10,000 steps is not a magic number," she said.

Most important, Thompson said, "is finding your own path. Finding the exercise that will allow you to do it consistently is the real key."

-- Sally Squires

Share Your Tips or ask questions about healthy nutrition and activity when Sally Squires hosts the Lean Plate Club online chat, from 1 to 2 p.m. today, on www.washingtonpost.com. New To The Club? The Lean Plate Club is devoted to healthy eating and boosting activity. To learn more, and subscribe to our free e-newsletter, visit www.washingtonpost.com/leanplateclub.

© 2004 The Washington Post Company


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