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I see people wearing them constantly and even have one myself; a device that tracks how many steps you take.  What is usually associated with tracking your steps is the number 10k.  Taking 10k steps for many people is the benchmark of having exercised or not really; getting closer to my health goals or not being serious. Why do we attach such significance to 10k steps? Is it the threshold we have to break to decide whether we are active or not enough?  Well, I would like to suggest in several ways it may be overrated, without considering the points I list below.

  1. 10k steps are just a general number- In Dr.Leigh Vanderloo’s article “What Science Actually Says About Taking 10,000 Steps A Day”, 10k is just a number that was adopted with the creation of the pedometer.  Most national and international health authorities don’t have a daily step count recommendation. In Canada, it’s recommended that adults get 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous activity per week, with no mention of a specific number of steps. In this way don’t get caught up as much on walking 10k steps, but on how that 10k steps (more or less) makes you feel.
  2. Doesn’t take Intensity into account- Do you walk fast or slow, uphill or downhill? In regards to how 10k steps make you feel; a measure of intensity is more important than distance.  Despite many advances in fitness trackers, they don’t measure intensity accurately.  It has been well documented that you can achieve a higher caloric output from doing HIIT or Hit Training than steady-state exercise. HIIT allows you to workout at higher intensities with shorter rest and recovery, rather than walking over an extended  period
  3. Not as Important as Strength Training- In addition to fitness trackers not measuring intensity, they also don’t track non-stepping movements.  In strength training, you hardly walk at all, but I would choose a regular strength training program than walking 10k every day.  While you don’t get as much of a cardiovascular benefit compared to walking, you do get increased strength, balance, metabolism, hormonal changes, and functional ability, that can’t come from just walking.

While I write this article to share my opinion on why 10k steps may be overrated, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t walk.  Simply ensure that if you do walk 10k, if it’s easy, walk more, add strength training and vary your intensity. 

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