Are Step Counters Useful?


Step counting has been popular for awhile now. So much so that tracking your daily walking activity is a feature built into most phones.

You may even have (or are considering getting) a watch or fitness tracker to collect that data more accurately for you.

Having that information does you no good if you aren’t sure what to do with it, or if you should even pay attention to it. My goal is to help you make that decision for yourself.

Too Sexy for My Shirt

I don’t know about you, but my snap judgements aren’t always right.

For instance, I once thought owning a bright red, fish net muscle tee was a good decision. Then my roommate locked me out of our house while I was wearing it and I was forced to reconsider my opinion.

My snap judgement about counting steps was shortsighted as well.

I’m not a fan of arbitrary standards set universally, so the “10,000 steps” rule – which is not based on any kind of science – immediately turned me off to the idea of step counters.

I thought they were dumb.

If you talk to any person who has put in the work and successfully gotten in shape, none of them will say, “All I did was walk 10,000 steps every day.”

There are certain things you have to do to get fit. Setting a step goal isn’t one of them.

Like I said, though, my snap judgements aren’t always reliable. Just because step counters aren’t a requirement, that doesn’t mean they can’t be useful.

Should You Use It?

Step counters are only useful if you understand the specific purpose they serve: to encourage more daily activity.

Simply being active isn’t a replacement for exercise, where the emphasis is on continually progressing the demands you place on your body in order to achieve specific health or performance goals (read more about the difference between exercise and activity here).

At the same time, even if you exercise an hour a day (which is a lot), if you spend the rest of the day on your butt, there are health risks involved with that type of sedentary lifestyle as well.

In other words, being more active is a worthwhile goal in and of itself.

Beyond that, when you’re trying to lose weight, one of the ways your body attempts to slow it down is by causing you to decrease your daily activity. This happens on a subconscious level. Intentionally increasing your activity with a step count goal can help counter those effects.

Now that you understand these things, the next step is knowing what to do about it.

How to Use It

No one HAS to track their step count. You should only do it if you’ll enjoy it, and if it’ll motivate you rather than stress you out.

Then, your step count goal should be individualized.

Start out by not changing your routine for a week and see what a normal step count range is for you. If you average around 3,000 steps, setting a goal of 10,000 steps isn’t realistic.

You’re better off slowly raising your goal little by little, until you hit an activity level you’re happy with.

There’s no magic number. If you get to 6,000 steps and feel good about it, there’s no reason (or even any proven benefit) to force yourself to do more.

If you already live an active life and find you regularly get your step count high — let’s say anything even approaching 5 digits each day — I recommend forgetting the step count entirely. You’re better off focusing on an exercise program that will fill in the gaps where an active lifestyle doesn’t reach your specific goals.

On a Personal Note

I don’t use a step counter. Obviously I don’t have a problem with them anymore, it’s just not for me.

What I DO do is go for walks on a regular basis.

Being active is important, but, as with diet and exercise, there’s no one right way to go about it. That’s why a main objective with our online coaching is to come up with a plan that helps you reach your goals, but in a way that is realistic for your life.

Let’s talk about how we can help you with that. Click here to get in touch with us and we’ll be sure to reply within 24 hours.

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