Reaching The Right Amount Of Steps Everyday
Everybody loves a new gadget. In spite of the fact that there hasn’t been a significant technological advance visited upon society in well over a decade, there have been thousands of gadgets plopped into our laps. So who needs progress when you have gadgets? One of the most popular gadgets of the past few years has been the pedometer, of which FitBit is the most well-known example. The pedometer has actually been around in one form or another for more than 50 years. But it wasn’t until the rise of app culture that it really took off. Below, we’ll take a hard look at step counting and reveal some savory and some unsavory truths. Starting with…
The Whole Notion Is Problematic
Why? Because it’s not really the exact number of steps you take that matters, it’s the intensity of the exercise. If you saunter your way through 10,000 slow, lumbering steps the health benefit you receive will be virtually zero. On the other hand, if you take a brisk 1 mile walk in the morning (about 1,500 or so steps) and another similarly brisk walk in the evening you’ll enjoy a much greater benefit than you would get from 10,000 slow steps. If you never break a sweat or engage in sustained heavy breathing then you might as well be standing still. Don’t get us wrong. It’s better to be standing than sitting. But not much.
Steps Aren’t Everything
Ever hear of Crossfit? Crossfitters are some of the fittest individuals on the planet. And yet their workouts of the day (WODs) almost never call for step counting because steps alone aren’t everything. In Crossfit you might start with jumping jacks, then do pullups, then pushups, then do some kettlebell swings, then some power weightlifting and cap it off with some box jumps. This type of workout done on a regular basis will turn you into a fitness dynamo while your neighbor is standing in line at Starbucks moving their FitBit around to try and up their step count.
Sometimes More Is More
If you’re sold on steps as the key to attaining fitness nirvana then know one thing: more steps are better. If you’re going to do 10,000 vigorous, physically meaningful steps per day why stop there? Especially if you’re not doing any other type of exercise. If you’re limiting yourself to steps then don’t stop at 10,000. Do 15,000. If they are the kind of steps that matter then you’ll benefit more if you don’t stop at some arbitrary limit. What arbitrary limit you ask?
10,000 Steps A Day. That Arbitrary Limit
10,000 steps is typically held up as the golden rule when it comes to step counting. But where did this number come from? Was it just plucked from the ether or is there sound science behind it? Turns out the magic number first appeared as part of a Japanese advertising campaign in 1964 that promoted a crude step counting device called the Manpo-Kei. No one knows exactly how the company arrived at the number though it sure sounds reasonable and has been widely disseminated ever since. Health professionals today consider the number pretty arbitrary and say that half that amount of steps if done right, would do wonders for most people.
No Need To Go 0-10,000 Overnight
As soon as they strap that pedometer to their arm some folks think they need to get up and start walking 10,000 steps a day. No so. In fact, if you do buy into the 10,000 step notion and go from being essentially sedentary to knocking down 10,000 meaningful steps a day you’ll likely be so sore and so put off by the experience that you’ll stash the pedometer in the dresser drawer next to your mood ring and 8 Minute Abs VHS. A better idea is to start with 1,000 vigorous steps and gradually ramp things up.
Lots Of People Cheat
Many of those who buy step counters begin looking for creative ways to reach that 10,000 step milestone almost as soon as they take the device out of the box. For instance, we know of someone who would give her pedometer to her teenage daughter in the morning and then take it back later in the day. By that time there were only a couple of thousand steps left to go and everyone knew she was heading for the finish line because she’d sway to and fro while carrying on conversations with her neighbors at 7-11. At the end of the day, she’d often celebrate making her goal with a slice of Black Forest Cake. While everyone has a right to live the way they want we’re pretty sure that A) this is no way to get in shape and B) our Black Forest Friend is not the only one practicing self-deception when it comes to step counting.
You Don’t Need A Pedometer
People have been enjoying robust health forever by following a couple of simple rules: eat well and exercise. The notion that counting steps with a pedometer will somehow deliver you to the fitness promised land kind of misses the point. If you want to get in shape all you really need is the desire. Show us someone who counts 10,000 steps every day and we’ll show you someone in better shape who eats right, doesn’t drink or smoke, spends an hour with the dumbbells twice a week, takes the stairs and runs 3 times around the park every other day. All without ever tracking anything. They used to say that “Cocaine is God’s way of telling you-you have too much money.” These days you could substitute “Pedometer” for “Cocaine” and it would be just as true.
The bottom line is that there’s nothing wrong with counting steps. But there are steps and then there are steps. And unless you’re doing the kind that are making you sweat and breath heavy then you might as well have some Black Forest Cake and think things over.