It seems that for the last year or more, article after article in the news has espoused the benefits of the standing desk. Staying on your feet, writers suggest, is a direct counter to the sedentary lifestyle that has been so pervasive in the American workplace since the mid 20th century.
Separately, other articles have touted activity monitoring devices like Fitbit which have only helped these little tracking devices become more and more popular. At their most simple, these devices monitor your steps to make sure you’re getting enough activity throughout the day.
Some people may prefer one of these over the other. Or perhaps, they may enthusiastically use both! After all, they both seem to contribute to an active lifestyle and should prevent you from being sedentary, right?
Wrong. Or rather, the answer is not that straightforward.
In the New York Times’s Wellness Blog, Gretchen Reynolds writes that activity is very different from simply not being sedentary. To illustrate this point, she puts the 5000 steps/day principle under the proverbial microscope. 5000 steps is typically presented as the threshold between a sedentary and active lifestyle. But the facts are not quite so clear.
She argues that if you concentrate all of those steps— whether 5,000 or 10,000— into one single “step session,” but are otherwise sedentary throughout the day— lounging on the couch or in front of a desk for instance, you are still susceptible to the long-term risks associated with sedentary lifestyles.
Her solution? Intersperse your steps throughout your day. Get up to chat with a coworker or walk around the neighborhood. The trick isn’t to get active. It’s to stay active.