Whose beat are you stepping to?
We like our health advice simple: drink eight glasses of water a day. Get eight hours of sleep. Consume two thousand calories a day. Take 10,000 steps a day.
The truth is, health is too complex and individual to be reduced to rules. And sometimes rules can do more harm than good, especially when they deliver a blow to your self esteem; you end up feeling badly about yourself when you don’t follow them.
How often have you beat yourself up for not “meeting your goals” for 10,000 steps, going to the gym three nights a week, even coming to our hot yoga studio which is meant to be a place to soothe your mind as well as tone your body?
Who makes these rules? It’s worth asking. For example, a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, by I-Min Lee, a professor of epidemiology at the Harvard University questioned the 10,000-steps-a-day rule. She found that the guideline was really a… marketing strategy! “In 1965, a Japanese company selling pedometers choose the name which in Japanese means ‘the 10,000-step meter.’” Lee believes that name may have been chosen because the Japanese character for 10,000 looks like a man walking.
But the actual health merits of that number were never validated. Through the magic of marketing, the 10,000 steps a day rule was set in the minds of millions.
When Lee actually tested 16,000 elderly American women her finding was that 4,400 steps per day significantly lowered mortality rates. At 7,500 steps the rates leveled out and she concluded that as little as 2,000 steps offered positive health outcomes
That “little” means a lot. It means that a little extra physical activity seems to do women good both physiologically and psychologically, but setting the same goal for everyone is setting you up to be discouraged about yourself for no good reason
Life is complicated. We may want cut-and-dried, black-and-white health advice, but life continues to be a richer, deeper story. If there is a moral to this story I would say: do what you love, and love what you do.
And love yourself no matter what.
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