From Enthusiasts My Best Life

All Your Steps Count Whether You Count Them or Not

Count my steps? I have no aspiration to reach the ‘magic’ number of 10,000 in the slightest. But a quick glance at my step count did make me think.

Countless times I’ve heard friends say oh I need another thousand steps or so. We could be training at the gym with full on exercises, and they’re looking at their step count. I don’t keep track of or count my steps, never have, most probably never will, and here’s why.

I may be an old soul in the sense that I don’t always have the latest technology. I don’t have a smart watch, and only upgrade my phone and technology when the old one’s either no longer work or are too outdated to be updated and supported. Thinking about it now, I was once actually given a fitness band, but never really got around to setting up. Maybe I should, just to see the real productivity output and numbers of my training.

Either way, for a long time, while my friends were counting their steps trying to reach that magic number of 10,000, I was happily going about my life and training not bothered about my steps. My old technology didn’t support it, and I was happy about it. I didn’t need the added motivation or putting from another lens, the added pressure either. Although I did think that I could easily hit ten thousand steps without much effort. Well, on that, I was very wrong.

Even when I had a phone that could support it, considering this technology isn’t that new, I never checked it. However, now that the gyms have been closed and I’ve been running instead of my usual training, I was curious to see how many steps I was getting and more to the point how many steps a ten kilometre run was. So I snuck a peek. It turns out that on an average day without a run, I would only get about a few thousand steps all out. And even with a ten kilometre run, I was hitting just over eleven thousand steps.

The thing is, when I’m training at the gym, I don’t take my phone in with me. There is a lot of walking around the gym, and that wouldn’t even take into account the actual training which to me was plenty good for my health and fitness. With the pandemic and most things being done from home and not many places to go to, the longest walks I’m doing generally are from my desk to the fridge. And I don’t carry my phone with me. Ergo, my all important steps aren’t counted.

The real question for me was where the exact magic number of 10,000 steps even came from. All of a sudden, everyone is banging on about their steps, how many steps they’ve achieved, and how many more steps they needed to do. My first thoughts were that it was probably some marketing ploy that some company came up with to sell a product which is very common when it comes to the health and fitness industry and fitness products. So I had a quick look into it.

It turns out that that is exactly what it was. The magic number had no scientific relevance or backing. No real studies or research was done to procure to that number. It was indeed a marketing campaign conducted by a company selling a pedometer at the time of the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games. I’m not sure why it has been popularized again more recently over the last several years. I guess that it could have something to do with the pedometer technology now being included on all smart devices and the roll out of fit bits and smart watches. But it was only as recent as mid 2019 that any studies at all have been conducted to see if indeed ten thousand steps is a magic number in any way. And even so the research is still relatively inconclusive and undefined.  The samples were also conducted with an older demographic.

Published on The National Institute of Health website, part of the U.S. Department of Health, the study shows that the “number of steps is more important than the step intensity”. But overall it couldn’t determine that ten thousand is the perfect number of steps in regard to decreasing mortality. In fact, it found that while the benefits progressively increased above 4,000 steps, the benefits leveled off at about 7,500 steps a day. The document goes on to suggest that starting with a goal of less than 10,000 steps may actually be beneficial as it could be less daunting and is more common standard.

The most important thing is, and I try to stress this as often as possible, to find something and do the things that work for you. If counting your steps gives you a target and goal to achieve and pushes you to be more active then you should most definitely count your steps. But at the same time, don’t let it put you off from walking or being active because the target number of 10,000 steps seems like too much and discouraging. Walking is still a good way to stay active especially in a time when gyms and leisure centers are closed. Do what works for you.

The only reason I even had a look for myself at my step count was because I wanted to try measure my current levels of activity given that my usual extensive training is mostly on hold due to the pandemic. At the same time, there are also fewer places to go and a lot less to do which means that I’m more sedentary. My regular activities, traveling to events and destinations, simple day to day movements, are far less as well. And it was quite surprising to see that on a lazy rest day Saturday, I may only clock in at around 1,000 steps which would usually be a lot more in normal times by just going out to meet with friends.

It did make me think and feel a bit sluggish knowing that on a rest day, I was virtually inactive. With the generally more sedentary behavior that the current situation has brought on, I figured that I should probably give it a bit more thought. I do run four or five times a week which for me is good, but it was the rest days that I felt needed a bit more activity.

I figured that on these days, I can go for short and easy walks. I do yoga pretty much every morning as well as resistance training circuits, but they don’t register on my phone obviously because of the kind of movement and I don’t actually have my phone on me while I do them. So I decided that once a week when I do my weekly shop, I would do it on a rest day on which I don’t run and would walk to the supermarket which is about a twenty five minute walk. And on a Saturday which these days I don’t do any exercise at all, no running, circuits or yoga, I would go for a nice and easy walk around the local parks or neighborhood. And honestly, I’m finding it really enjoyable if not for anything else but the simple fact that it gets me out of the house for a short time.

I may not count my steps, and I definitely don’t care to try reach the magic number, but just a brief look at my step count did make me think a bit more about my inactive days. I feel better for it.

This is what works for me. As always, find what works for you. Even a simple half an hour walk a few times a week can work wonders. You don’t have to do what everyone else is doing. There is no reason to over extend yourself either, which itself may even have an adverse effect on your desire to do anything at all. Simply do what works for you.

Keep in mind that you don’t have to count your steps, but every step counts.

All content within this column is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. Always consult your own GP if you’re in any way concerned about your health.

Founding partner at LIFE ON FITNESS. I'm a fitness enthusiast (not a fitness 'professional'). Being massively obese, I started my fitness journey at around the age of 14. It wasn't the cool thing to do yet, and didn't even know what my life was missing. It only got better as I researched, tried, studied, and tested evermore fitness elements and knowledge. I write my thoughts with the hopes of inspiring even one person to achieve their life goals as well as their fitness goals. But most importantly enjoy and get the best out of life.

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