My phone is pressed to my ear, and my feet are shuffling to keep up with the pace of my at-home treadmill as I tell Dr. Kelley Starrett that since committing to getting 10,000 to 12,000 steps per day, a habit I picked up to combat my 10-plus hours of daily sitting, I’ve lost weight, feel mentally clearer, and am more regimented. As far as first impressions go, my interview with the renowned physical therapist is off to a good start.
“I’m so stoked you’re doing that,” Starrett says. “We [Starrett and his wife Juliet] have all our teams walking. It solves sleep problems; [muscle] tissues get healthier. It’s shocking how much better it is for people to get outside and walk.”
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This type of insight from Starrett has made him a popular coach for athletes and celebrities like UFC welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre, podcaster Joe Rogan, and big-wave surfing icon Laird Hamilton. Starrett initially achieved eminence in the fitness industry thanks primarily to his 2013 book, Becoming a Supple Leopard (co-authored by Glen Cordoza), which made the New York Times bestseller list (in 2014) and evangelized athletes to the ways of mobility and movement training.
Starrett’s enthusiasm for my newfound health hobby stems from his mission to get people to move more and move better, outlined in the couple’s new book Built to Move: The 10 Essential Habits to Help You Move Freely and Live Fully, available to purchase as of April 4, 2023.
“Supple Leopard is a textbook,” Starrett explains. “You couldn’t hand that to your neighbor. [Supple Leopard] was a manual for people trying to solve performance problems, not a guidebook on how to live daily with all our modern inconveniences — school, work, Netflix.”
The premise of this new book is simple; Follow the 10 tenets, and your body will “work better.” Past the flashy jacket art lies age-old fitness and health principles that will surprise few. They are to walk more, eat vegetables and fruits, focus on your protein intake, move your joints, and get good sleep.
“We all move in some way every day,” Starrett writes in the book, “yet most of us don’t move enough or in all the ways we need to.” That sentence boils down to Starrett’s hard truth: Your workout isn’t enough. “There’s more to being fit,” the book continues, “than a punishing gym session in the gym or on the road.”
A 2021 study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that 2,640 adults in the U.S. reported an average sedentary time of 9.5 hours on the two days they were surveyed. (1) And high levels of sedentary behavior are linked to cardiometabolic diseases (e.g., heart attacks, diabetes, and strokes), says another study in the Korean Journal of Family Medicine, as well as an increase in all-cause mortality, increased cancer risk, and knee pain. (2)
If you’re cringing because this desk-bound lifestyle reads as close to home, fear not. Starrett, after all, has a solution and you can find pieces of it below.
Level-Up Your Daily Movement
Built to Move’s 10 “vital signs” are “indicators of how well you move, how much you move, and how well your lifestyle activities support movement.”
None of the tenets in Starrett’s book are, on their own, a silver bullet to your muscle recovery woes or gym performance issues. However, adding these movements and practices into your daily routine is a solid broad-stroke approach that Starrett says should fill any gaps that affect your performance.
Starrett’s tenets provide a clear roadmap of habits to make that person feel better and move more efficiently. And if you’re a serious strength athlete, you also have something to gain.
“We look at every training session as having a training cost,” Starrett explains. “Ultimately, we’re trying to reduce the session cost so that our athletes can handle higher volumes, higher intensities, and bigger poundages. This set of 10 behaviors ends up being our base camp for us.” To translate, Starrett is saying that the principles outlined in the book will help a serious strength athlete — who is presumably more health-focused than a general gym-goer — recover more optimally and perform better.
Below you’ll find two strategies (or tests) plucked from the book, along with ways to improve if you fall short (and you may — which is OK). Note: These tests are just a sampling of what you’ll find in the book, with the 10 tenets extending beyond walking and hip mobility. To learn more, you can purchase Built to Move at Starrett’s website, The Ready State.
Walk 8,000 to 10,000 Steps Daily
The benefits of walking are well-recorded and vast. In a vacuum, hitting that step count may not be as intense as a 20-rep squat set or 500-pound deadlift, but it’s an easy way to improve your heart health, contribute to weight loss (if that’s your goal), and possibly reduce joint pain.
To illustrate just how effective a simple walk can be for weight loss and/or management, let’s look at a couple of facts. The average person accumulates just over 2,000 steps per mile, meaning 10,000 steps roughly equate to five miles. And according to this chart by Garage Gym Reviews, a 180-pound person will burn 479 calories walking five miles at an easy pace (between 2.5 to 3.5 miles per hour).
By walking five miles every day, that 180-pound person burns about 174,835 calories per year. According to the Mayo Clinic, the average person walks 3,000 to 4,000 steps daily. We’ll average that out to 3,500. According to GGR’s chart, that equals 144 calories burned through walking for our imaginary 180-pound person. So by bumping one’s daily step count up to 10,000, the yearly burn increases by 122,275 calories — or 207 Big Macs from Mcdonald’s®.
If you’re already hitting this target, congratulations! For folks who work a desk job, accumulating an extra 6,000-7,000 steps requires some intention. Here are some strategies for upping your step count without it feeling like a part-time job:
- Schedule walks. On average, you’ll accumulate 1,000 steps per 10 minutes. A 30-minute walk in the morning and after work means you’ll get within the 8,000-10,000 step range.
- Walk and talk. Meetings are a great opportunity to accumulate more steps. Take your meetings over the phone and get to stepping. Walk outside or around your house even.
- Ditch the car when possible. If you can walk to your gym or the grocery store, resist the temptation to drive and watch your step count rocket upwards.
Sit Down and Rise Up
This one isn’t a hard sell: The ability to sit down and get up is crucial, and maintaining that ability becomes even more important as you age.
Enter the Sit and Rise test, which assess the range of motion in your hips, your core and leg strength, and balance; the Starretts suggest performing this simple, equipment-free test every day. Here’s how to do it:
- Stand tall in an open space. You can position yourself next to a wall or post for support if needed.
- Cross one foot in front of the other, steady yourself, and then squat down until you’re sitting criss-cross applesauce on the floor. Try not to hold onto anything during your descent.
- From that same position, stand back up. Avoid placing your hands on your knees or grabbing onto anything for support. You can lean forward with outstretched arms.
If you were able to complete this test without losing your balance or the need for external support, you’re in a good place (mobility-wise, that is)! Practice this test daily to maintain great hip mobility and balance. If you find yourself on wobbly footing, try these strategies to improve:
- Sit cross-legged. Plop down on the floor, cross one foot in front of the other, and sit upright with a straight back. Occasionally switch your leg position. Cross-legged sitting will help to restore hip and lower back strength and function, according to Built to Move.
- Open your hips. There are many exercises to keep your hips loose and supple. One movement that the Kelly and Juliet Starrett like is the Hip Opener. To do it, lunge forward and extend your leg as far back as comfortable. Place the same-side hand as your forward leg on your knee and drive your torso forward. Breathe deeply. From here, move your forward knee around in a circular motion. Do that for a minute and then switch sides. Try to work up to two to three minutes of active mobilization.
Move It, Move It
Kelly Starrett on the BarBend Podcast
In it, they discuss, the importance of sports, teams on the cutting edge of sport performance, and why hiring a team chef is crucial.
More Mobility Content
- Hate Doing Mobility Work? Here’s How to Do it Between Sets
- The 5 Best Mobility Workouts for Staying Strong and Flexible
- The 15 Best Mobility Exercises for Better Movement and Performance
- MATTHEWS, CHARLES E.1; CARLSON, SUSAN A.2; SAINT-MAURICE, PEDRO F.1; PATEL, SHREYA1; SALERNO, ELIZABETH A.1,3; LOFTFIELD, ERIKKA1; TROIANO, RICHARD P.4; FULTON, JANET E.5; SAMPSON, JOSHUA N.6; TRIBBY, CALVIN7; KEADLE, SARAH K.8; BERRIGAN, DAVID9. Sedentary Behavior in U.S. Adults: Fall 2019. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 53(12):p 2512-2519, December 2021. | DOI: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000002751
- Park JH, Moon JH, Kim HJ, Kong MH, Oh YH. Sedentary Lifestyle: Overview of Updated Evidence of Potential Health Risks. Korean J Fam Med. 2020 Nov;41(6):365-373. doi: 10.4082/kjfm.20.0165. Epub 2020 Nov 19. PMID: 33242381; PMCID: PMC7700832.
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