I spend most of my days in a sedentary fashion, seated at the computer or reading. This is not good for one’s health generally but sitting for long times especially runs the risk of deep vein thrombosis.
Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) occurs when a blood clot (thrombus) forms in one or more of the deep veins in your body, usually in your legs. Deep vein thrombosis can cause leg pain or swelling, but also can occur with no symptoms.
Deep vein thrombosis can be very serious because blood clots in your veins can break loose, travel through your bloodstream and lodge in your lungs, blocking blood flow (pulmonary embolism).
The article lists many risk factors to be aware of but these two were relevant to me.
Age. Being older than 60 increases your risk of DVT, though it can occur at any age.
Sitting for long periods of time, such as when driving or flying. When your legs remain still for hours, your calf muscles don’t contract, which normally helps blood circulate. Blood clots can form in the calves of your legs if your calf muscles don’t move for long periods.
When I was living in Cleveland I did not get any exercise at all but now that I am in Monterey where the weather is nice every day and there are places to walk around in my housing complex, I have started going for a 25-minute walk once a day. But is that enough exercise?
Recently I got an iPhone7 as a hand-me-down from my daughter (this has always been the way that I get free phone upgrades, when she upgrades to a new model) and it has a pedometer so I decided to see how many steps a day I took with my normal schedule. It turned out to be around 3,500, and that includes about 2,500 just from the walk. The average American walks about 3,000 to 4,000 steps a day, or roughly 1.5 to 2 miles, so I was about average.
But this is far below the figure of 10,000 per day that one hears bandied about that supposedly should be the goal. I became curious as to where that number came from and whether it had any validity. After all, we know how some health folklore, such as needing to drink eight glasses of water a day, turns out to have no basis at all. According to I-Min Lee, a professor of medicine at Harvard University, that step number does not have any scientific basis either and was a product of marketing. She is the lead author of a new study that found that even 4,400 steps a day produces health benefits for women.
Previous studies have shown that when it comes to physical activity, “some is good, more is better,” but there’s little data on steps and health, particularly long-term health outcomes. I knew this was a critical gap in knowledge, since so many people monitor their step counts. But 4,400 steps per day is a very modest number of steps.
[The goal of 10,000 steps per day] likely originated as a marketing tool. In 1965, the Yamasa Clock and Instrument Company in Japan sold a pedometer called “Manpo-kei,” [which roughly translates to] “ten thousand steps meter” in Japanese. But, for many older people especially, 10,000 steps per day can be a very daunting goal. That’s why we wanted to investigate whether this number was necessary to lower mortality rates.
If you can get to 10,000 steps per day, that’s fantastic, and I certainly would not dissuade you from that goal. For those who are inactive, though, that might not be achievable. Most people average 2,500 steps per day just doing normal activities, like going to the bathroom, walking around the office and getting the mail, so adding 2,000 steps per day more to your usual routine is very doable.
She suggests simple things you can do each day that will increase your step count considerably but almost imperceptibly. This article has more recommendations.
I like it when things can be quantified because that enables me to set targets and see if I have met them. Having the pedometer has encouraged me to become less sedentary by setting achievable daily goals. When trying to adopt a new habit, I have found it better to set modest realistic goals that are not onerous because then one has a better chance of sticking to it. You can slowly raise the bar if you so desire. I read this article that says that regularly getting up and walking around makes people more productive, so I decided to try it. I set an alarm to go off every hour and when it does, I get up and walk around the apartment for about three minutes, which is an easy schedule to maintain, before sitting back at my desk. I find that it does help to renew energy to concentrate on the task at hand.
With my new routine, I end up doing about 7,000 steps a day, and that is going to be my new routine because it seems attainable without much effort.