Thursday, 1 January 2015

2014 - a year in numbers

Big data on a small scale - using numbers can help motivate you to a healthier lifestyle, by keeping track of the factors that play a part in promoting longevity.

The acquisition of a pedometer has proved to be of great value to my health, as I have been logging my paces for the whole of last year. Entering the data daily into a spreadsheet, I can now see that over the past year, I have walked 3,528,516 paces - a daily average of 9,669. At the start of last year, I measured my average stride - it is 80cm. Multiplying those three-and-half million paces by 0.8, I can work out that I've walked 2,868km, or 1,775 miles during the course of 2014.

This is something I shall continue with this year. My Tanita 3-axis pedometer is now on its third battery, it's proved reliable and easy to use with no drawbacks. A good pedometer is more accurate than the downloadable apps for smartphones; it's a good investment in motivating oneself into regular walking, a healthier and less risky way of keeping fit than running.

The World Health Organisation, Britain's National Health Service and the Surgeon-General of the USA all recommend a daily target of 10,000 paces, which is around 8km/5 miles or about one hour and 20 minutes of reasonably paced walking. So my annualised daily average of 9,669 (counting days spent at home due to colds or heavy rain) is not at all bad. 10,000 paces a day is also a target for 2015. It sounds a lot, especially when you're trying to fit it into a busy working life; unless you ditch the car, it is awfully hard to do. Walking plus public transport - the ten thousand becomes much easier. Walking to the shop before breakfast at the weekend - et voila! there's 3,500 paces done.

I kicked the year off well today with a 10,000-pace walk around Jeziorki, discovering a footpath I've never walked along during my 17 years living in this area - leading from ul. Karczunkowska to ul. Kórnicka.

My spreadsheet also allows me to keep track of other health-related data - exercises and diet. Looking over last year, I can see when I overdid the exercise, sprained muscles which led to breaks in the regime. I can now see how much is too much. It's also good motivation to keep going.

Weight at the beginning of this year: 12 stone 0 pounds (76.2kg). More worryingly, my girth (circumference as measured at the navel) has gone up to 40 inches (101.6cm), that's one-and-a-quarter inches or 3cm more than at the end of of Lent last year. Back to sit-ups!

The good thing about maintaining a health and fitness (or more accurately, a fitness-for-health) spreadsheet, is that after one year, keeping fit becomes competitive. All of a sudden, as of 1 January 2015, I'm competing with someone - myself, though a year younger. It will be interesting to see whether this year I walk more paces, do more sit-ups, drink less alcohol, than I did last year.

Alcohol - last year I tracked every unit drunk, it came to a weekly average of 33.1 units, slightly over the old NHS guidelines of 28 units but more than half as much again as the current guidelines of 21 units - which seem to be - ahem - unreasonably low. Still, if you can't measure it you can't manage it - I shall endeavour during the course of 2015 to drink less alcohol than I did last year. I must say, my alcohol consumption in the weeks leading up to Christmas was massive!

Five portions of fresh fruit and veg a day is a tough target, if you bear in mind that three small Clementine oranges constitute but one portion, and the NHS advice is to eat more veg than fruit. Just how much raw carrot can one eat? Still, I have to go for the target, and entering my daily consumption in a spreadsheet will provide useful information.

On the diet front, last year was notable for the news that sugar is bloody dangerous stuff. It is addictive, harmful in many ways - and the body doesn't need it. (In evolutionary terms, its purpose is to make pleasurable the consumption of Vitamin C). The discovery that sugar plays a greater role in high blood pressure than salt is significant. We should all try to avoid sugar - especially processed sugar. Confectionary, cakes, biscuits - they should be cut out of our diets to nearly zero.

Lent starts on 18 February, Easter this year falls on 5 April, earlier than last year, so as in past years the weeks between New Year's Day and Ash Wednesday will be spent slowly preparing for the Big Fast.

A final New Year's Resolution note to myself - write more.

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