Magic numbers are everywhere. Max heart rate (220 – age), eight hours sleep, 2500 calories, 8 glasses, 500 miles – oh no wait, that was a song. Where do these numbers come from? We gullible humans believe them to be correct without really questioning their origin. Sometimes they are scientifically researched and averaged out for the population. Some are pretty much entirely made up!
Let’s take the concept of 10 000 steps. I have bought into the fitness tracker craze. I didn’t buy one that tracks my heart rate and I’m not using it to track my sleep – I purchased it to track my movement. My particular tracker, is basically a fancy pedometer. Luckily, I did get to input my height, weight, age and general activity level. From there an arbitrary daily goal was spat at me. The good news is that my tracker has done something really intelligent. It hasn’t only made me a little crazy about managing to walk 10 000 steps every day; it also makes me do a certain amount of movement at different intensities!
Where do we get the concept of 10 000 steps from? According to Good Weekend Magazine: “The goal’s origins stem from the late 1960s in Japan, where a company created one of the first pedometers and sold it under the name Manpo-kei, or “10,000 steps meter”. It was a catchy marketing term – no more, no less – that stuck.” Wow, that’s a pretty effective marketing campaign! Interesting isn’t it.
Why didn’t I buy the trackers with all the bells and whistles, I hear you ask? Well, besides the price consideration, technology in these devices simply cannot track heart rate correctly during activity at this point in time. They aren’t too bad at resting heart rate. To get accurate readings, you would still need to wear a chest strap. As for tracking sleep – they’re getting better, however there are still some questions over their accuracy.
The question, then, if 10,000 steps was picked out of the air, how many steps do we actually need each day? The article in the papers magazine went on to lay this out for us:
Distance: 2.4 kilometres.
What it means: 6 laps of a running track.
Approximate time taken: 30 minutes.
Category: couch potato/sedentary.
Distance: 4 kilometres.
What it means: 10 laps of a running track.
Approximate time taken: 60 minutes.
Category: people who walk less than this are considered to be sedentary.
Distance: 8 kilometres.
What it means: 20 laps of a running track.
Approximate time taken: 1 hour, 40 minutes.
Category: walk 5000 to 7499 steps daily and you have what’s considered to be “a low active lifestyle”; 7500 to 9999 steps a day and you are “fairly active”.
Distance: 12 kilometres.
What it means: 30 laps of a running track.
Approximate time taken: 2 ½ hours.
Category: should be a minimum target if you are already generally active but want to lose weight.
Distance: 16 kilometres
What it means: 40 laps of a running track
Approximate time taken: 3½ hours
Category: a good target for fitness and weight loss if you are already fairly active.
Distance: 20 kilometres.
What it means: 50 laps of a running track.
Approximate time taken: 4 hours and 15 minutes.
Category: goal for couch potatoes who want to lose weight.
The kicker to the above numbers is INTENSITY. As the article states: “If your steps get quicker, then you can cut the duration. If you are jogging or running your steps, then the higher intensity means that you can effectively chop the 16,000 to 18,000 figure in half”.
10 000 steps may be a myth. However, if buying a fitness tracker and reaching a daily goal gets people up and moving then I am all for them! Even though my partner and I have both completed our personal training course and hold Cert IV in Fitness (theoretically, we know all about how much movement we need….right?) we have both found we now get FAR more incidental activity since we began using trackers.