At the beginning of 2017, I decided to attempt my Five Million Steps challenge for the charity, Different Strokes. I am currently on 3.3 million for the last 12 months and feel very much on target. I am ahead of this time last year and know that my activity will increase over the next few months. I am questioning my motives now, and ask myself am I exercising for health benefits or am I just counting my steps? I know there is a very fine difference however is being so goal driven good for me? Is obsessively wearing my step counter a good thing or one of those new trendy annoyances?
I can, hand on heart, say that I have walked around the table in an attempt to hit my target but I don’t subscribe to the wasted step mantra if I don’t wear my step counter. It is however a method to guide me in my progress and facilitates goal driven training and recovery.
Is there evidence for this? I decided to answer the question myself:
First stop: NHS choices Step Challenge
As always, this is a great place to start and it gives a good grounding into why activity is beneficial and counting steps promotes activity. It was very interesting to see the comparisons between step numbers and amount of time being active, which appears to be far more of a marker of our well being and less round the houses as counting steps.
Step counters therefore motivate us to get moving – but do we need this – or are we a victim of the most amazing advertising and marketing campaign ever?
Second stop: The Blogs Step Conversion Charts
It is fantastic to see the levels that people can go to and this blog converts normal everyday activities into step numbers to make sure we don’t miss any. Again, if this level of detail keeps people on target for their activity levels then it helps. It is fair to say though, that I won’t be keeping the document as that is on another level for me.
Third stop: Research 1
Fourth Stop: Research 2
These were probably less helpful, as it appears the research has been based on those people with pre existing medical conditions, so it may not accurately reflect the benefits of exercise or motivation levels on the populations. We do all remember those old pedometers though! They weren’t the most reliable and didn’t give us a true reflection on activity so it might be interesting to repeat the same study with the incredible devices that are on the market now.
All of my stops above, have one thing in common; that moderate intensity exercise is good for you (they agree on 150 minutes per week as a figure) Physical activity guidelines
Step counting, is useful as it promotes activity, it allows people to exercise in a controlled manner that limits injuries but also gets people together in challenges or online groups. As a tool in itself, the number of actual steps is not as important as the amount and level of exercise undertaken.
It is not a passing trend, as more and more people are taking part, more and more organisations are recommending step counting however it is ultimately the amount of time spent exercising that is the most beneficial. It is of course, up to individual choice and preference and needs to be used in a sensible manner.
After all this, what will I do? I will continue to use my step counter for the rest of the year (as there is no other way to evidence my step challenge) and then as a goal for completing my 5 million steps, will purchase a watch to time my exercise session (oh and what a watch it will be). It is a perfect reward to the end of a year of adventure and I will always walk, I am a walker and love it.
Walking, is more than just ‘moderate exercise’, whether its in a group or solo – it is food for the soul, a time to recharge and be mindful , a time to explore the world we live in.