By Janos Porszasz, MD, Ph.D.
Professor of Medicine at UCLA
Technical Director, Rehabilitation Clinical Trials Center
Division of Respiratory & Critical Care Physiology & Medicine
Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center
In early September, we wrote about the new program of the European Respiratory Society and linked to a video that they released in connection with the Society’s Annual Meeting. During the meeting, many of the 23,000 participants measured how many steps they walked on a particular day. This competition is very tough if you are sitting at a meeting all day long. Just recently, I was in Montreal at the annual meeting of the American College of Chest Physicians (ACCP – CHEST) and took part in two days of educating participants about cardiopulmonary exercise testing.
As Dr. Troosters mentioned in his newest blog, posted on the website of the European Respiratory Society, it is hard to get a good grip of what activity levels are congruent with the recommendations. Sometimes, especially during long meetings, everyone sits and listens to lectures while neglecting their own need to move around. The recommended 10,000 steps per day are hard to achieve on these days – to be honest, on most days. Walking 100 steps takes about a minute; it takes about 30 minutes to make 3,000 steps!
In Montreal, during my congress, I walked from the hotel to the congress hall every day, which was about one mile each way. My cell phone records my activity, counts my steps, and calculates distance so I can follow up my activities over time. One day, when we went on a short sightseeing tour, my step count was 19,000; on this day the total active time was about 3 ½ hours!
This activity – admittedly – is extreme, and if I can achieve half of it on an average day, I am very happy. The goal should be that you move around at least one hour every day. If you do this, even cumulatively, it will be more than the recommended active time per week and you should feel good about it. You will also notice that your mood is improving, so the next day you will be happier to go out for a walk, not to mention all the other benefits this kind of activity has.
There is much work to be done before we reach the goal that all patients have a physically active life-style. We use ‘exercise’ as a magic word, but if you think about it as “anything that is more active than usual” is exercise, the goal may not seem to be that distant.