My sister used to have a Fitbit but got so obsessed with beating her previous days steps that she had to chuck it in the bin. It was bordering on OCD and consuming her life!
That aside – where did the mandate (espoused by Fitbit and health professionals around the world) for 10,000 steps per day come from?
Well it turns out it was a marketing ploy dreamed up by a Japanese manufacturer of pedometers in 1965!
A bit like the previous alcohol consumption guidelines – it was taken up and accepted by people without scratching beneath the surface to check the science.
So if 10,000 steps a day is a false figure – what should we be aiming for in order to gain all the health benefits from exercise like keeping our heart and muscles strong, our blood vessels pliant, reducing chronic inflammation, moderating our hormones, and blunting our response to stress?
Well here are the figures (from least activity to most) with the scientific studies to back them up:
1. 25 minutes a day of moderate and vigorous activity a day reduces your risk of dying in the next 5-8 years by 25%:
2. An extra 30 minutes of activity each day that elevates our heart would halve your mortality rate:
3. 2 hours of brisk walking per day (Glasgow postal worker study) gives you cardio-metabolic (heart) health on par with hunter gatherer tribes:
My take on this is that we shouldn’t be focussing on an arbitrary number of steps but the total time spent each day doing moderate to vigorous exercise (the stuff that gets your heart beating fast!).
So ditch your Fitbit, take the stairs, get off at a station before your stop and walk the remainder, do High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) twice a week, walk the dog briskly around the block, vacuum the house at pace, and do all other house work like it’s a workout!
It’s not about losing weight (as exercise is not particularly good at that beyond a point) – it’s about living a more healthy life into your twilight years.