I was online the other day looking for information about people who successfully lose weight and how they do it, when I stumbled across the National Weight Control Registry. I didn’t even know there was such a thing! It’s been around since the 70’s, started by two scientists who recognized that the data available in the area of weight was suspect because the numbers represented only people who had serious health problems as well as being overweight. In other words, the data represented only people who had come to the attention of the medical establishment for medical reasons, not simply because they were overweight.
Rather than assume the data sample represents everyone who weighs more than “average,” they wondered about people who had been quietly going about their lives and finding their own way of dealing with what they perceived as a problem in their lives.
It was absolutely fascinating to read people’s accounts of making change in their lives, and fascinating to see some similarities in their reports. Here’s a sample of the things that most–not all–people reported doing:
78% eat breakfast every day.
90% exercise, on average, about 1 hour per day.
62% watch less than 10 hours of TV per week.
The first two didn’t surprise me. The third–I guess I’d just never thought about it much. I hadn’t made the obvious connection that time spent in front of the TV takes time away from everything else we could be doing. But look at this information, based on 2000 people in Dallas. (I haven’t looked at the study report; this info is from one of my favorite new blogs, called, appropriately, Healthiestblog, from Jeremy Dean, who wrote Making Habits, Breaking Habits.)
The 2000 people wore monitors to track their activity; on average, people were sedentary for 5 hours a day. The actual range was 2 to 12 hours. Every hour spent sitting down added a 14% increase in coronary heart calcification. And, most interesting to me, more exercise did not necessarily reduce risk. What did reduce the risk was simply sitting less.
So how to do that? If you work at a sit down desk, get up and walk down the hall every hour. Better yet, figure out how to make, borrow, or steal your own standing or walking desk. Take the stairs, park as far away from your destination as is practical, walk at lunch. Wearing a pedometer can be a real eye-opener, and many people find that helpful. More and more I see people loving their FitBits, too. Whatever keeps us moving!
After all, isn’t that what we really want? Much better than trying to match someone’s idea of an “average” number.