"I've reached my ten thousand steps," a patient excitedly proclaimed.
With the emergence of Fitbit, Jawbone, and other activity monitoring devices, the definition of physical fitness has begun to shift. Instead of measuring one's level of fitness based off overall strength, mobility, and cardiovascular endurance, America has simplified their view of fitness to completing 10,000 steps/day. While the benefits of walking are irrefutable, physical fitness is much more than counting steps.
"Activity trackers are a great first step in climbing America out of the hole of low physical fitness"
Activity trackers represent a step in the right direction for fitness, yet they are only the first step. Current activity trackers do not adequately measure other metrics of physical activity. For example, resistance training has proven, profound effects on the muscles and bones, decreasing one's risk of osteoporosis, muscle breakdown, bodily aches and pains. Weight training has also been shown to increase metabolism and expedite fat loss. These benefits are lost if one simply prioritizes counting steps! In addition, people are now settling for 10,000 steps. I have had discussions with several patients who reach 10,000 steps early in their workday. Because their tracker shows they have reached their daily goal, they feel complacent foregoing an afternoon workout. This mindset prevents them from obtaining cardiovascular and strength training benefits.
Why 10k Steps?
The American Heart Association first started using ten thousand steps as a baseline for physical activity because it roughly equates to thirty minutes of physical activity. The website Livestrong has quoted, "The American Council on Exercise estimates that the average person can burn up to 3,500 calories per week by walking 10,000 steps every day." There is ample evidence to support that walking (or 30 minutes of physical activity) is beneficial in fighting heart disease, type II diabetes, and other environmentally acquired problems.
Fitness needs to be multi-dimensional. Workouts should include several types of activity- weight training, yoga, cardiovascular activity, etc. A variety of activity forces our muscles, ligaments, and heart to be stressed in different ways. This creates variability in our muscles and allows us to handle life's stresses. While taking 10,000 steps a day could be a good target goal for baseline maintenance, there needs to be more awareness that simply counting steps may be unsatisfactory for overall health and longevity.
On the physiological level, the human body needs variety
The Fitbit and other activity trackers are NOT making people fat
Activity trackers have helped many people become active again. They have brought awareness to the obesity epidemic and helped people return to fitness. Companies are continually developing their technology to help change people's lives. Most importantly they have brought daily recognition to activity level and calorie expenditure. The activity trackers are not making people fat, but they may be giving people a false sense of fit.
1) Keep variability in your workouts. Frequently change your routine so that your body must adapt
2) Add Weight training to your routine, this benefits both your muscles and bones
3) Do not forget about exercises that require lateral movements (ex. side to side jumps, lateral stepping)
4) Do not settle for 10,000 steps, 30 minutes of physical activity is recommended
5) Don't forget to rest!
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