Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Little things vs. Big things

Ever since August, I have been tracking my step-count for a fitness program we have here at work. I also recently bought a BodyMedia FIT (review coming. I swear. It's half done.) and have also been wearing that pretty much 24/7, since it also supposedly monitors my sleep.

As a result, I've come to understand quite a bit about how different choices I make impact how many calories I burn that day. It's been very interesting.

Anyone who has done a structured weight loss program before has been told such hot tips for losing weight as:

-Park farther from the entrance
-Take walk breaks throughout the day
-Take the stairs instead of the elevator
-Walk over to someone's cube instead of sending them email
-Stand up for meetings

And many of us have the same reaction, I'm sure. Kind of an eyeroll, whatever, reaction. Because those things seem so lame. Plus how many calories can they really burn if you only burn 50 extra by walking an entire mile? Walking around the building three times a day is a lot less than a mile, right?

Okay, maybe that isn't your reaction to this advice, but it's usually been mine. Not that I don't do some of those things anyway. I always park pretty far away ... because I don't want my car full of car door dings. I pretty much always take the stairs too. Elevators take too long when you are only going up one or two flights and, besides, I think of people who do that as either having medical problems or being lazy and I don't want to be in either category even if only in my own mind.

But I never really thought it made much difference. Apparently, I was wrong. What happened to change my mind is this:

First, I got busy at work and started calling into meetings that were across the street instead of walking over to them. It was only 1-2 meetings a week, but I did see that my step count was enough lower on days I didn't exercise that I risked not making the magic 7,000 steps cutoff of our pedometer program. (If you can make over 7000, you get 40 extra point and points translate into money so I want those points!)

Then, my work buddy quit for a new job. We used to go on walks all the time to clear our heads when work got too frustrating. (Which was often at certain times of the year.) He also liked to eat lunch at the cafeteria on the far side of the campus and, even though I bring my lunch most days, I would go with him and heat it up there. Lunch alone was good for about 1500 extra steps a day.

I was kind of aware that I wasn't quite as active because of the lower step counts, but I didn't realize how it was translating into calories until I got the FIT. When I first go it, Work Buddy was still here. I found out that I was burning 100-200 calories more a day than I thought I was most days. Once Work Buddy left, BOOM. Those calories were pretty much gone. Some of them had been missing since I stopped walking to most of my meetings, but they all went up in smoke once the 3-4x a week lunch walks and the 1-3x a week campus walks were gone.

Who would have thought that one simple change in our environment -- one I had no control over -- could have such a dramatic impact on calories out? If I wasn't wearing the FIT, I would have continued to eat as always and I would have started gaining 1-2 pounds a month! I also would have been completely mystified as to why. Because, in my mind, nothing had really changed. Not enough to count, anyway.

On the other hand, Sunday I went for a really long bike ride - 47.11 miles - and burned so many calories that it made all the little stuff completely irrelevant. When you burn almost 2000 calories in one ride, losing 100-200 a day is nothing. In fact, with that one ride, my activity level for the week doubled.

My conclusions based on my experiences?

-If you do the big things, the little things take care of themselves

-If you can't do the big things, the little things really can add up if you do enough of them.

No, walking to one meeting a week isn't going to make a difference. Walking to all of them, plus to lunch most days, plus taking walk breaks at least once a day? Adds up. Significantly.
Post a Comment