The Sedentary Epidemic: Move more!
Tl;Dr: Move more. We’ve become inherently lazy. Sitting in cars, sitting in work, sitting at home. Driving, working, watching tv. This doesn’t just affect your now, it affects the rest of your life, how long it is and the quality of it. Here's to giving 85 year old you the best chance at being independent.
Oh, and #JFW!!
Why do you train so much, Conor?
At a couple of dinners recently (one work and one personal) I got asked about endurance training, why I exercise every day, long term benefits and basically why I do what I do. With that, some wondering what they should be doing and also why I don’t really take a day off.
Outside of simply because I want to and because it makes me feel good, there’s some science to the why.
Straight up - to hopefully live a longer, healthier life where I can walk and carry my own shopping bags in my 90s, maybe even go for some nice gentle jogs and play golf. Beyond that, the world has gotten inherently lazy, where movement (exercise) is looked at as an anomaly and at times even a luxury to be able to afford the time to do.
A trip to the chipper
Working from back to front here. The daily availability of calories per person has increased from 2,800 to 3,800cal per day. To maintain weight at this daily intake you would need to do 3hrs of aerobic exercise per day. However, most people are lucky if they do just one hour. Nice for some that you can afford the time to go to the gym or for a run, eh!
To build on that, let’s rewind to the 90s and 00s, only 20-30years ago. When you wanted a takeaway, a Friday night treat, you might go to your local chipper. You’d walk there, order, have to wait around, maybe even pace back and forth outside it, then you’d walk home with it. You would accumulate maybe 1,500 - 2,500 steps in this time. Nowadays, you order on deliveroo and at best maybe walk 10-20steps if you happen to be the one answering the door! 20-30 years ago we expended energy getting that food, now we sit and wait to get those calories.
What I’m saying here is that with technology we have a lot at our fingertips that gives us the opportunity to move less. It’s super handy and it’s a great tool to have. However, we have to be mindful of our activity levels. What are activity levels? Our activity goes beyond the one hour of exercise we might get, it’s our movement throughout the day which can be captured in our step count (simply walking) or calorie burn. Remember the magical 10,000 steps. Why 10,000?
Run, walk, jump, play!
Well, there can be many reasons but again let’s go back a few years. When you were a kid you walked, ran and jumped around all day. Then you started going to school. In the early years you still walked, ran and jumped most of the day. Then you went to secondary school. You might have played sport and walked between classes but you also started sitting down a little bit more. As the general population reach adult life, post-graduate studies, they tend to work in offices, at desks where they sit for most of the day and if they’re lucky the get a stand up desk. To get to work, people will most likely drive, spending more time sitting. At lunch they’ll probably sit at a table and after it they’ll get straight back to the desk because they’re busy with lots to do. Hopefully by now you get the picture. It’s a sedentary one.
Over the years people gradually move less and less. It happens slowly. As adults it can be easily avoidable by changing up your work day. Forgetting about the one hour of gym, cycling, tennis or whatever you might do, let’s focus on simply movement and walking. Getting out for an early morning walk or walking to work is a great way to increase steps. If you can’t do that and you have to drive, maybe you go to the gym first thing, then once you arrive at work grab your coffee (or water) and head out for a 15min stroll before you sit at the desk. At lunch time, get a nice 20-30min walk in before getting back to your desk. Not only are you increasing activity levels you’re now regulating your blood glucose levels and you’ll feel much better for getting some fresh air. When you get home from work try to do the same, adding in another short walk. Throughout the day, moving around the office a bit and swapping the lift for the stairs will help add another few hundred or a couple of thousand steps to round out your day!
JFW - Just F*cking Walk
That’s just tackling the energy expenditure side of things, now for the fun part! Our Vo2max, not just a number to highlight elite athletes’ potential, it’s also a key predictor in longevity. The graph below pretty much says it all.
I currently have a VO2max of around 65. It’s obviously beneficial for challenges I set, however it should hopefully make the day to day easier as I get older. If that VO2max is down at the black or red line (graph below), walking up hills will be pretty difficult when I’m older, never mind stairs!
The good thing is, VO2max can be influenced and changed. Your movement can influence it and get it close to that 50 number even as you age. To maintain a VO2max of 50ml/kg/min, which is a fairly decent baseline, you can do about 10hrs per month of training at 25. Pretty easily done. At 40, you tip to just over 20hrs which is still just under 1hr per day average. At 75, you need to average 2hrs per day. Obviously much more difficult.
It comes down to how fit and healthy you want to be. What do you want to be able to do when you’re 80? At 80 years of age, if you want the Vo2max of an average 35 year old you should be aiming for 10,000 steps per day and 3hrs of movement per day. They’re not mutually exclusive, you can accumulate a lot of those 10,000 steps and a chunk of your 3hrs of movement with a long walk.
Basically, just f*cking walk! Start now, move daily, throughout the day and enjoy.
I haven't touched on strength training but there are similar reasons for doing resistance and strength training. Our muscles atrophy as we age (muscle wastage). I used to have a bit more muscle than I do now but I feel better with the amount I have and my current fitness levels. There's an element of strong enough, enough muscle, fit enough, enough endurance. It's defining the right amount for you for what you want now but also making sure you have enough so that older you can me independent.