I don’t usually pay attention to celebrity exercise routines, but I was struck the other day when I saw Howie Mandel walking in circles on the set of the “Ellen” show. Was he making a point about the benefits of walking?
As Howie circled the stage, to the growing amusement of Ellen DeGeneres, he was checking an object on his wrist. What gives?
It turns out that Howie was wearing a pedometer, a device that counts numbers of steps walked, and he indeed was telling Ellen that he has a minimum of steps to hit as part of his walking for health program.
You might wonder, as I did, why on earth he’d try and get his steps in on a TV show. Besides being good television, Mandel gamely told Helen that he’d been on a flight from New Orleans and hadn’t gotten his walking in yet.
“I think sitting is the new smoking,” Howie said, adding that he’d like to hit 10,000 steps every day. I couldn’t agree more and previously I have said much the same thing. I applaud Howie for getting the word out in a big way by saying it on TV.
Sitting Is The New Smoking
Decades ago, smoking was once Public Enemy #1 in the health community. Everywhere you turned, some James Dean or Humphrey Bogart was lighting a Camel (unfiltered, of course) or Marlboro and watching the elegant smoke trail off the cigarettes. Millions of deaths later, everyone knows that looking cool for a few minutes is not worth lung cancer, heart attacks and the other health risks involved with smoking.
What about sitting? Howie Mandel mentioned the worldwide obesity epidemic, another point I’m glad he made. People are sitting all day long, watching TV, typing on computers, texting, playing video games, watching 10 consecutive episodes on Netflix and generally leading sedentary lifestyles. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this shift in culture is happening at the same time as obesity and chronic diseases are rising.
Sitting is the new smoking for this reason: it’s the activity that is dangerous to people of all ages and it is so widespread it won’t change without a shift in the way we think.
Short periods of sitting is fine, but we need to walk every day and throughout our day. Otherwise, we damage our body in countless ways. Previously, I discussed how sitting can harm us at the genetic level, and how walking reverses these damaging effects.
Most significantly, researchers have found that some of the genes affected by sitting are closely related to cancer.
By connecting sitting to higher levels of cancer (and other serious problems), there’s no question that sitting might very well have replaced smoking.
Why the Benefits of Walking Are Yours for the Taking
I’ve been trying to illustrate recently how easy it is to find time to walk. News that stepping (walking in place) during the commercial breaks of a TV show had largely positive effects on sedentary, obese people struck me as sad yet encouraging. You can walk in the most anti-athletic way possible and still reap the benefits of walking. I like the way it posits walking almost as a miracle cure. No matter how little attention you give it, walking still does wonders for you.
Forget “Be Like Mike” – Be Like Howie!
I was also excited when Howie Mandel noted the pedometer on his wrist and how he aimed to hit 10,000 steps every day. In another article, I discussed research that equates step counts to specific diseases you can avoid.
Hit 5,000 steps daily and you’ll see improved moods and clearer thinking; push it to 8,000 steps to see a decreased likelihood of experiencing osteoporosis; and make it to 10,000 (Howie’s goal) to see relief from high blood pressure and a better shot at fighting back diabetes.
Once upon a time, everyone hoped to be like Mike (the great Michael Jordan). A century earlier, it was Edward Payson Weston, the champion walker who could cover distances of 500 miles in a just a few days. We have a new role model now, one who showed why walking for health is so important. Be like Howie: get off the couch, make your phone calls walking and count every step on your pedometer. You could do a lot worse in a day’s exercise.
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