On-the-Job Fitness a Fringe Health Benefit

What you do for a living could impact your health.

A recent study shows people who naturally move more during the day are less likely to be overweight. To see which workers are moving most, we asked four women to wear a pedometer for nine hours during their work day, for two days.

Our subjects were Cindy Horchem, a high school teacher who spends her day working with teens; Sheri Strathman, a floor nurse who runs back and forth down the hall caring for patients; Tracey Haverkamp, a stay at home mom who watches her two youngest children and a friend's little girl; and Kathleen Sebelius, Kansas governor, who spends much of her day going from meeting to meeting.

All four are busy, but are they active? Knowing the answer can help any of us.

"Any kind of movement is activity, and it burns calories and it burns fat," said Dr. Stacy Weeks of Cotton-O'Neil's Image Enchancement Center.

Dr. Weeks says as America's become less active, our weight has gone up. She says our jobs may be part of the problem. With so many of us using computers, we're sitting a lot more.

Knowing how many steps you take at work can help you determine how much activity you need the rest of the day. The American Heart Association says you should strive for ten-thousand steps in a 24-hour day.

Of our subjects, teacher Cindy Horchem had the least, averaging just under 2700 steps for the nine-hour period. Cindy figures it's because she never goes far during the workday - mostly just around her classroom. She makes time for exercise outside work.

So does the Governor. She averaged just over 3600 steps. Sebelius makes time for a pre-work workout several days a week. She says it makes a difference in how she feels and functions during the day.

As for the most active jobs, nurse Sheri and mom Tracey averaged right around a whopping 8200 steps - that's more than four miles - in just nine hours.

Tracey says she's surprised how much her steps added up, while Sheri says she never realized how much walking her job involved until she added it up.

Armed with the information, all of them can now plan steps toward a fit life.

WIBW Expanded Coverage
Adding Steps to Your Day
(Courtesy: American Heart Association, www.americanheart.org)

Physical Activity in Your Daily Life

At Home
It's convenient, comfortable and safe to work out at home. It allows your children to see you being active, which sets a good example for them. You can combine exercise with other activities, such as watching TV. If you buy exercise equipment, it's a one-time expense and other family members can use it. It's easy to have short bouts of activity several times a day.

Do housework yourself instead of hiring someone else to do it.
Work in the garden or mow the grass. Using a riding mower doesn't count! Rake leaves, prune, dig and pick up trash.
Go out for a short walk before breakfast, after dinner or both! Start with 5-10 minutes and work up to 30 minutes.
Walk or bike to the corner store instead of driving.
When walking, pick up the pace from leisurely to brisk. Choose a hilly route. When watching TV, sit up instead of lying on the sofa. Better yet, spend a few minutes pedaling on your stationary bicycle while watching TV. Throw away your video remote control. Instead of asking someone to bring you a drink, get up off the couch and get it yourself.
Stand up while talking on the telephone.
Walk the dog.
Park farther away at the shopping mall and walk the extra distance. Wear your walking shoes and sneak in an extra lap or two around the mall

Stretch to reach items in high places and squat or bend to look at items at floor level.
Keep exercise equipment repaired and use it!
At the Office
Most of us have sedentary jobs. Work takes up a significant part of the day. What can you do to increase your physical activity during the work day?

Brainstorm project ideas with a co-worker while taking a walk.
Stand while talking on the telephone.
Walk down the hall to speak with someone rather than using the telephone.
Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Or get off a few floors early and take the stairs the rest of the way.
Walk while waiting for the plane at the airport.
Stay at hotels with fitness centers or swimming pools and use them while on business trips.
Take along a jump rope in your suitcase when you travel. Jump and do calisthenics in your hotel room.
Participate in or start a recreation league at your company.
Form a sports team to raise money for charity events.
Join a fitness center or Y near your job. Work out before or after work to avoid rush-hour traffic, or drop by for a noon workout.
Schedule exercise time on your business calendar and treat it as any other important appointment.

Get off the bus a few blocks early and walk the rest of the way to work or home.
Walk around your building for a break during the work day or during lunch.
At Play
Play and recreation are important for good health. Look for opportunities to be active and have fun at the same time.

Plan family outings and vacations that include physical activity (hiking, backpacking, swimming, etc.)
See the sights in new cities by walking, jogging or bicycling.
Make a date with a friend to enjoy your favorite physical activities. Do them regularly.
Play your favorite music while exercising, something that motivates you.
Dance with someone or by yourself. Take dancing lessons. Hit the dance floor on fast numbers instead of slow ones.
Join a recreational club that emphasizes physical activity.
At the beach, sit and watch the waves instead of lying flat. Better yet, get up and walk, run or fly a kite.
When golfing, walk instead of using a cart.
Play singles tennis or racquetball instead of doubles.
At a picnic, join in on badminton instead of croquet.
At the lake, rent a rowboat instead of a canoe.

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