By Anja Trenkwalder
Elm Staff Writer
Getting active throughout the day can give you the quick burst of energy your body needs to stay healthy and in shape: choose the stairs instead of the elevator, ditch your car and walk to the store, deliver that message in person rather than via email. While those two flights of stairs or the five-minute walk may not seem like much, let it become a habit. It will add up. You will realize that weight management becomes easier, and your body will reap nearly all of the health benefits of regular cardiovascular exercise.
As for weight management, the amount of calories you take in should equal the amount of calories you exercise out and this is how you stay in shape. We have all heard it at least a hundred times. If you eat almost exactly as many calories as you burn throughout the day, through your body’s natural metabolism and exercise, your physique will stay nicely trimmed.
What many people do not know is how many calories we actually burn throughout the day. The Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion estimates the daily energy need for a 20-year-old sedentary male at around 2,600 calories. If that same 20-year-old male had an active lifestyle, he could consume up to a whopping 3,000 calories a day and not gain a pound. For a sedentary female of the same age, it’s 2,000 calories, or up to 2,400 if she is active, as a woman’s body metabolizes energy more slowly than her male counterpart. It’s important to mention though that these numbers are estimates and depend on many other factors, such as example one’s body composition (how much is muscle, how much is fat), individual metabolic rate, physical health, and environmental factors. While this estimate is true for a majority of America’s population, your individual calorie intake may be slightly higher or lower. In any case, getting active can significantly increase your daily calorie allowance.
A 160-pound person burns about five calories when climbing one flight of stairs, and while this does not seem significant by itself, imagine a typical college student in a multi-story dorm building who has multiple classes to go to each day that are held in multiple story buildings. For a typical college student, it can easily add up to 10 flights of stairs up and 10 down over the course of a day – voilà, 100 calories burned. Throw in walking to class, as well as a 15-minute walk to the store and back, and you will burn even more. A 160-pound person uses about 105 calories per mile walked. Add this up, and you will see just by how much your daily calorie allowance is going up when throwing in just a little activity.
Calorie count is not the only advantage of casual exercising. There are boundless health benefits associated with day-to-day exercise. Walking, climbing stairs, and even standing is all light cardio. A person who takes the stairs and travels on foot can easily enjoy the same health benefits as a person who is sedentary, but hits the treadmill or elliptical a few times a week. Indeed, the Harvard Medical School confirms that just a few short walks each day can lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke, and create a healthy body composition to the same extent as a short daily run.
Remember that no matter how small your casual workout is, it makes a difference. Once you get to the point where taking the stairs and walking becomes the norm for you, you will experience a pool full of health benefits. Whether your goal is to become healthier, keep your weight in check, or reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases, getting active with casual exercise is a fantastic starting point to a better life.