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As someone that has used a step tracker for the past 7 years, I’ve gone through various stages of a love/hate relationship with my FitBit and more recently, Garmin tracker. 10,000 steps per day, that’s the “recommended goal” but did you know this goal originally came from a Japanese company selling a pedometer? As someone who is generally a rule follower, for several years I tried to be compliant and hit 10,000 steps each day to feel like I was following the guidelines to be healthy. I felt like maybe I had found the right tool to keep me motivated enough to lose weight and get into good shape again.
No doubt about it, the FitBit step challenges can be motivating for anyone who enjoys competition. There are multiple variations where you can compete with your friends for just one day, the full work week, the weekend, or in geographical landmark based challenges. If I was in one of these challenges and went to work or the gym and forgot to wear my tracker, I turned into a major grump wondering why I even bothered when I WAS NOT GETTING CREDIT FOR MY STEPS!
Yeah, it was silly, but I think a lot of people get attached to their wearable trackers to the point where they can relate to those emotions. Ultimately, it encourages you to be more active and keeps you consistently moving each day, so what could be unhealthy about that? Here are a few examples from my own experience.
An Unhealthy Obsession With Steps
- When you have a singular focus on getting 10,000 steps a day, do you also have time to include other fitness essentials, like strength training? For me, I don’t usually have enough time to do both since I’m at a computer all day.
- Do you feel guilty when you choose to work on things like weight training, flexibility, balance, and agility if it means you don’t reach your step goals? I sometimes felt like I was failing, but in reality, I was just adding in some needed variety to my fitness schedule.
- Do you actually ENJOY the daily steps or is it just another chore? I love taking walks, but when it’s out of obligation, it tends to take some of the enjoyment away.
- Do you ever go to bed too late because you’re staying up to pace around the house and meet your goal? I’ve done that on several occasions (most of them when I was in a StepBet). Looking back, I can laugh about it, but that goal mindset had become so ingrained in me that resting before hitting the goal just didn’t feel like an option, and that sometimes kept me from getting much-needed rest that is also crucial for maintaining my health.
Maybe you’re someone who wears a tracker but isn’t obsessive about hitting the goal each day or can hit your goal along without excluding other key aspects of fitness. In that case, it’s probably a useful tool to help you track and improve your fitness and you’re wondering why anyone would be so fanatical about all of this. If you’re someone who has been sedentary and you want to use it to push you to move more, that’s another situation where a step goal could be a helpful tool as long as it does not become all-encompassing.
The 10,000 step goal should NEVER be the end all, be all for your daily fitness. It CAN be useful as a gauge, but hitting 10,000 steps every single day is fairly unrealistic and even unhealthy for some people if other aspects of fitness get neglected. I hope our society can shift to more of a movement mindset instead of just step goals or a guilt-based gym routine. Find movement you enjoy, that challenges you, and also makes your body feel good, and work to be consistent about that. I don’t know about you, but when I finish work, the last thing I want to do is another thing with the word “work” in it, e.g. workout.
It’s been a powerful mindset shift for me to start thinking, “Now I get to take time for movement” and I have so much more of a positive association with it because the possibilities are endless. Of course, some days I just don’t feel like doing anything, no matter the label, but overall it has definitely helped! I’m starting to think about new types of movement I want to try like SUP, aerial fitness, and even rock climbing – what a challenge!
Another thing to consider – if you consistently do the same amount of activity/steps each day and don’t vary it, your body will get acclimated to that level of activity and you’ll likely hit a plateau in your fitness goals. It’s crucial to mix things up!
Sample Week of Movement
Below is an example of what my movement schedule looks like on an ideal week. Ideal? When does that ever happen? Having a back-up plan in mind can be helpful.
- Monday – FiA workout – 45 minutes
- Tuesday – Strength training – Lower body – 30 minutes
- Wednesday – Frisbee golf in the park – 1 hour
- Thursday – Strength training – Upper Body – 30 minutes
- Friday – HIIT home workout – 15 minutes
- Saturday – Outdoor volleyball tournament
- Sunday – Active recovery – Walking or hiking – 1 hour
Flexibility Is Key
How many days a week do I actually hit 10,000 steps? Usually 1-2. I’m trying to learn to be flexible – maybe I didn’t make it to the gym for strength training because I couldn’t sleep well the night before (or stayed up too late watching The Bachelorette). Rest is important, as is listening to your body.
Don’t use it as an excuse to avoid movement, but take the time you need to take care of yourself. I’ve been learning this lately as I’ve been recovering from a miscarriage. I have been taking daily walks for the past few weeks, but haven’t felt ready for more strenuous movement until this week, so I’m looking forward to getting back into that.
I’m interested to hear your thoughts on step goals, movement and how you stay motivated. What is your favorite type of movement or one type of movement you want to try? Let me know below!
Thanks for reading. Before you go, you can find the health and fitness products I use and recommend here, and you might be interested in reading: