the 10k step goal | are fitness trackers more harm than good?

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I wear a Fitbit. Most times. Okay, sometimes. When I don’t forget to charge it.

“You know they completely busted that myth about walking 10,000 steps a day, right?” remarked a friend of mine (smugly) upon catching a glimpse of my tracker.

She was, of course, referring to the flurry of click-baity articles (like this one and this one) published recently which set out to challenge the 10k step benchmark set by various public health organisations and fitness apps.

Many critics cited how the 10k step “mantra” became popular in the lead-up to the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games as part of an aggressive marketing campaign for the man-po-kei pedometer.

They pointed out that the ascribed “10,000” does not take into consideration factors like age, gender, gait, height, fitness level, lifestyle, pace, etc.

And I agree. Sort of.

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Comfy shoes are key. All of my flats, sandals, boots, and heels were bought with comfort in mind. If I can’t walk in them for at least a few hours, they don’t make the cut. I like to wear these Ecco waterproof hiking boots on rainy days.

 

 

All steps may not be equal, but they are all in the right direction.

According to the NHS, the average Briton takes between 3,000-4,000 steps a day, which is nowhere near the roughly 10,000 steps which constitute a “moderately active” lifestyle.

If someone who normally walks 3,000 steps a day is motivated to walk 5,000 steps a day in order to reach a target, then great!

If I choose to walk to the grocery store instead of driving, if I stroll to town for a coffee instead of catching the bus, go hiking at the weekend instead of to a movie  – then I’m living a slightly less sedentary lifestyle.

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But here’s the catch: reaching your step goal it is not a Get Out of Jail Free card.

Getting “enough” steps won’t replace your strength training, stretching, or high-energy cardio.  It isn’t a license to binge on lots of unhealthy food.

The 10k step concept is just that – a concept – not a hard and fast rule. And while it may not get you running marathons, it will set the bar for a more sustained active lifestyle and encourage healthier choices.

Chances are, once you start hitting your goal regularly, you won’t need to rely on a tracker or pedometer to tell you if you’ve had “moderately active” day. You’ll just know.

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The Fitbit Flex 2 fitness tracker is waterproof and thinner than other models. Still, I think my favourite to date has been the even more discreet Fitbit Zip.

I used to wear my tracker constantly (I’m on my third Fitbit), but now it kind of annoys me to have something on my wrist all the time (for the same reason I hate wearing jewellery). I more often tend to glance at my phone’s built in pedometer app to get an idea of how I’m doing, particularly during a week when I haven’t done a lot of other physical activity.

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I spent this day hiking in North Wales and climbing Snowdon. Afterwards, I ate a lot of cake at the campsite. And then went kayaking!

10,000 is not a magic number – you probably need to tweak your goal to better reflect your body and lifestyle – but it works for me. Some days I walk less, some I walk more, but hovering around that number means that I at least have a point of reference which is moderately active.

If that point of reference for you is 10k steps, a morning run, a regular cycle to work – as long as you’re able to consistantly incorporate exercise and activity into your daily routine, then it’s all about personal preference.

I like to walk, and I find it easy to fit around (and into) my other chores. I still like to swim, play tennis, and go hiking as well.

In my opinion, any device, mantra, or gimmick that encourages a more active lifestyle is at least a step (or 10k) in the right direction.

Ashley

Further reading:

NHS: Walking for Health

World Health Organization: Physical Activity for Health

 

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3 thoughts

  1. Good article that 🙂
    I totally get it too, I wore fitbit for a while, and with me having an active job I seemed to be doing about 20,000 steps around work, but because that was everyday, it meant that that was my norm I guess and was not really improving on that anymore than someone that does only 3 or 4000 a day.

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      1. Thanks, though it does help having an active job, what we should do is only wear these activity trackers when we do excercise/walk of any kind as the daily routines we are in like work or walking around the house is what is giving us false readings and then it is pointless wearing them, which if I remember correctly is kind of the point of your article, but the makers/marketers of these things are not helping us and maybe even themselves because they are not telling us the general public/buyers of their products how to use them correctly to actually improve our lifestyles, we are all just wearing them all day and not improving ourselves because we are walking 10 or 20,000 steps a day doing our normal activities, so many people I know that wear them say, look how many steps I have done today (I guess just like I did) and yet they have done no more exercise than on a regular day for them.

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