Don’t write off that 10,000 steps a day goal

Don't write off that 10,000 steps a day goal
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This week Google gave its Fit health and fitness platform an overhaul and it’s been long overdue. It’s always been a bit of a mess for anyone that’s been hoping to make use of it to keep active. Particularly its integration with Wear smartwatches.

One of the big talking points to come out of this Fit makeover was the decision to move away from a focus on hitting 10,000 steps a day to an emphasis on move minutes, Heart Points and closing rings like we’ve seen on the Apple Watch.

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It’s opened up that big debate once again about whether trying to get in 10,000 steps a day is an achievable goal and offers enough of a motivational push for the average person that’s starting to think more about staying in shape. Google said users felt intimidated by the goal and I’ve been interested to read the responses to Google’s decision to move away from being all about the steps.

There have been countless articles and research over the years (trust me, Google it) about whether you should be doing 10,000 steps or actually you should be thinking more about getting in a session of 30 minutes of exercise. One of the most recent pieces of research was conducted at the beginning of the year by Professor Rob Copeland from Sheffield Hallam University. He set up two groups of participants; one group had the aim to hit 10,000 steps a day while the other group focused on doing three brisk 10 minute walks a day that equated to 3,000 steps. He found that the group doing the multiple walks did 30% more moderate to vigorous physical activity, which had a greater health benefit.

There are other studies that have found similar findings and Google has done plenty of its own research to back this change in tact. But I’d like to come in the defence of the 10,000 steps because while all the studies seem to point to choosing shorter, more intense periods of activity over longer periods of steps amassed over the day. I don’t think it’s an entirely bad way to think about getting more active during the day.

Google Fit isn’t probably aimed at kids, but I found the whole step thing interesting when my niece was recently testing out the Fitbit Ace fitness tracker for kids. She didn’t care for active minutes or sleep monitoring. All she wanted to do was rack up those steps. She’s not particularly an inactive or lazy 8-year old, but like many her age, she can get consumed by tech like sitting on a tablet. Now that she had a fitness tracker, she delighted in telling me that she was getting closer to 10,000 steps.

But I have other examples (from adults) who really rely on chasing those step goals as ways to stay moving. They try to fit in an extra walk to make sure they meet that total or find a reason just to get those last extra few steps to hit that 10k number. Why? Because it’s easy to understand. We’ve talked up the benefits of heart rate based training activities like the kind that Google will now seek to reward, but there’s still a lot of educating that needs to be done to ensure this kind of HR based training is as productive as it can be. I’m sure the Google Fit will do that, but for me steps is a very simple metric to understand.

I think it’s all about the approach to step counting from wearable tech makers that matters here. Whether that’s the activity rings like Apple or something as simple and effective as Garmin’s adaptive step goals as seen on the Garmin Vivofit 4. Didn’t hit your step goal today? It’ll be scaled back slightly to make sure you do. Did more than your goal? We’ll nudge it up a little to get you moving a bit longer the next day.

What I’m saying is that we shouldn’t write off steps as a metric for helping to get people moving. It’s a starting point and that starting point can lead to the other forms of activity whether that’s a brisk walk or even to start running. I might be a relatively fit person, but I still see it as a great personal conquest to rack up those steps on a daily basis and I don’t think that’ll change any time soon.

Do you agree? Let us know in the comments section below.


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