From Fitbit and Jawbone to iPhones and elsewhere, steps and step-tracking are more popular than ever. Of course, this begs the question: Is this a trend worth keeping or are steps not really so important in the grand scheme of health? And, if they are important, then exactly how much so?
Pedometers and the 10,000 steps
To understand steps, it’s worth first discussing pedometers and their history. Modern pedometers initially became popular in Japan during the 60s. These were marketed as, literally translated, “10,000 step meters.” The number stems originally from scientific research conducted by their inventor. Since then, 10,000 steps has become something of an industry standard among pedometers; either they set a default goal of 10,000 steps, or they make a conscious decision to do otherwise.
As with pretty much all current medical understanding, numbers are approximate and vary from person to person in terms of what is truly optimal. One of the reasons why 10,000 has stuck around so well is that it’s an easily remembered, round number.
Medical professionals gauge success in what actually works rather than what might be some sort of “magic” number. Besides, there are so many variables to consider (including terrain, size of gait, intensity, and fitness level) when trying to make a reasonable step number recommendation that the number itself is more of a ballpark figure than you might think.
So why track my steps at all?
The amount of steps you take each day is still important to monitoring how active you are. Tracking your steps will let you know if you aren’t getting as much literal mileage from your daily routine as you should. Having the number available all the time can be motivation.
Olumia Life offers step-tracking and integration with numerous step-tracking devices in order to keep that data organized and use it to keep you improving. It also combines this information with context from the rest of your life to optimize it.
The people looking to benefit the most from a walking routine are often those with a lower level of fitness. Any exercise is better than no exercise, and walking is perhaps the simplest activity available. Since it is low impact, walking is also known to help mental health by relieving stress. You don’t need to live next to a national park for this to happen, either. Walking is good in cities as well. (But it’s also nice to know where the nearby parks are.)
As stated by the American Heart Association, “The simplest, positive change you can make to effectively improve your heart health is to start walking. It’s enjoyable, free, easy, social and great exercise. A walking program is flexible and boasts high success rates because people can stick with it. It’s easy for walking to become a regular and satisfying part of life.”
Stress relief and letting your mind rest a bit during a walk remains part of the benefits of people of higher fitness levels as well; however, steps alone may not create too much improvement. Getting back to pedometers themselves, many people who already exercise regularly find that step-tracking is useful as a baseline amount of exercise to make a goal each day.
What you should do
Even if you don’t have a Fitbit, the latest iPhone and Android models and other devices are actually equipped with their own pedometers you can use. Olumia Life step-tracking will help you set a step number that is perfect for you and your goals. Just go to the Fitness section of the app and check it out! The value of steps isn’t necessarily in a number, though. Steps are a great beginning and solid backbone, but are best used with additional context to create the healthiest you.