Saturday, 31 December 2016

2016 - a year in numbers

For the third year in a row, I've been logging some aspects of my drive towards a healthier life. The most important part, other than diet, is walking coupled with moderate exercise. How's 2016 been?

Goal: long, healthy, active life

I keep repeating this, but it's true. If you can't measure it, you can't manage it. If you are determined to live a long, healthy and active life, you should be more than just vaguely aware of how you're doing, but keeping track and monitoring progress just like a responsible business manager would do, keeping an eye on the key performance indicators (KPIs).

Public Health England announced the other day that 80% of my age group (40-60) in the UK are overweight, unfit and drink too much alcohol. So I took the online test (you can take it here). I scored 7.5 on a scale of 1 to 10. So - room for improvement. It helps if you totally avoid sweet snacks, cakes, biscuits, sugary drinks and confectionary, as I do.

Walking is excellent exercise. Unlike running, it is low impact (you can't do your ligaments or sinews in), and it's useful. Recommended by the NHS, the World Health Organisation and the Surgeon-General of the US, 10,000 paces as a daily target. This, depending on the size of your pace (mine's 80cm) represents around 8km/5 miles of walking each day. And this is generally at the expense of time spent in the car, polluting and congesting the city.

So this year (with an 80cm pace), I walked 3,098km (1,922 miles) down slightly from 3,136km (1,945 miles) last year. Since I started counting paces on a daily basis on 1 January 2014, I've walked 9,101km (5,646 miles).

I'm still using a Tanita PD-724 3-Axes pedometer (below), which I take with me everywhere I go. As long as it has a decent (not cheapo no-name) battery, it will serve you extremely well. Having said that, my new smartphone comes with a health app (Huawei Health) that is more accurate than WalkLogger (which I had in my old Samsung Galaxy SIII). These days, there's no excuse for not measuring your paces daily.

If you use your car as the default means of getting about, you have no chance of racking up 10,000 paces in a day. If you slow down the pace of life, use public transport, use that time to catch up on reading, and walk between meetings etc, it's not that difficult.

Continued improvement in terms of alcohol consumption. My weekly average intake across the year was 25 units, down on last year's 28 units. Now, 28 units was (just) within the "3-4 units a day" that used to be recommended by the UK Government. To many people's dismay, this target was reduced to 21 units a week for men (14 for women), and then reduced again early this year (to 14 units a week for men and for women) My target for 2017 is not be quite as ambitious as 14 units; I'll be aiming at 21 a week. Looking back at my spreadsheet records, last year every fourth day was alcohol-free, this year it's been every third day. [1 unit = 25cl of spirits (40%), 200cl of beer (5%) or 75cl of wine (13%). In other words, not a lot.]

Giving up alcohol totally is pointless, unless you have an addiction problem. Study after study shows that moderate drinking is healthier across a lifespan than living a life of total abstinence. And if alcohol in moderation improves your social and artistic skills - why not. Just be aware of the limits.

Exercise - this year help has come in the form of Michał Borzyskowski from Australia, a fitness trainer and reader of this blog. Michał has helped keep me motivated over the year, extending the duration of my exercising season (which used to be Lent-only) into October. He's also suggested a routine of strength-building exercises to rebuild my right shoulder muscles after a recurring rotator-cuff injury which has its roots back in July 2008. I have invested in 1kg and 2kg weights plus a pull-up bar.

So sit-ups, the main exercise for keeping the fat off the waist. This year was better than last year. Daily average across the whole of 2016 was a 72, compared to 41 in 2015. But I stopped in early October, as the nights started drawing in, and calorific intake increased again. My waist circumference is now 39 and half inches (100.5cm), less that it was this time last year (40 inches/101.5cm) - it should be 36 inches (91.5cm).

1 January will traditionally be the day to get back into it!

Measurable and manageable
   2014       2015       2016   
Paces per day
walked (average
across whole year)
 9,800  10,70010,600
Alcohol consumed
(units per week)
 33.4 28.0

Alcohol-free days
over course of year
 94 123

Sit-ups per day  65

Portions of fresh
fruit & veg per day


I'm also keeping a log of fresh fruit and vegetable intake. Recommended daily consumption is five portions - this year I managed that goal (5.0), up from 4.3 portions a day every day across 2015. A portion is 80g of fruit/veg, 125cl of pure fruit juice. Now, maybe too much of my intake is fruit, not enough is vegetable. But our supermarkets are helping - celery sticks are starting to make an appearance, good to dip in hummus. Seven or even ten portions of mainly veg is said to be the real target. But the problem is time - time to prepare. So I've focused on the easy-to-eat portions, like cherry tomatoes (a handful = 1 portion); banana; tangerines (in season) seedless grapes (in season); freshly pressed apple juice (not from concentrate); and always to go for the salad option, broccoli, carrots, spinach, whenever possible.

No sugar, no cakes, biscuits or confectionery (other than sugar-free gum). At all. None. Zero. We don't need it - not even in the smallest amounts. No salt-snacks. Meat - only the highest quality, and then rarely. Fish and dairy products, nuts, pulses, rice, potatoes - this is fine. I will, however, cut down on the burgers in 2017 - either from fast-food outlets or shop-bought and home-fried ones.

My father, 93, continues to be an inspiration to me in terms of keeping going, active, mentally and physically in good shape, into advanced old age.

For our own good, and for the good of society and the healthcare system that society has to maintain, we have huge individual responsibility to watch our lifestyles, avoid the temptations of in-car idleness and sugary foods, exercise daily and monitor it carefully. Some of us have good genes; we should give thanks for them by treating our bodies better as we age, and leave the health service to focus its finite resources on those whose illnesses were caused by bad luck rather than by foolish lifestyle choices.

This time last year:
2015 - a year in numbers

This time two years ago:
Economic forecasts for 2014 - and 2015?

This time three years ago:
Economic predictions for 2014

This time four years ago:
Economic predictions for 2013

This time five years ago:
Economic predictions for 2012

This time six years ago:
Classic cars, West Ealing

This time seven years ago:
Jeziorki 2009, another view

This time eight years ago:
Jeziorki 2008, another view

This time nine years ago:
Final thoughts for 2007

1 comment:

Wilkbury said...

Michael, a Happy, Healthy and Peaceful New Year 2017!