Why I don’t believe in the “10,000 Steps Per Day” Rule

Ten-thousand. That’s the number of steps we are told to get each day in order to be “healthy”. While I do believe it is extremely important to engage in an active lifestyle, I question this notion. Despite their potential for extra motivation, far too many people become a slave to today’s popular fitness devices (i.e. the Fitbit). This can prove detrimental in the following ways:

1.) Failure to look at the whole picture-Most devices only count steps and fail to take into account other forms of physical activity such as lifting, cycling, the elliptical, yoga, etc. Despite living what I consider a super active lifestyle, rarely do I ever meet the 10,000 step recommendation. In fact, I find it nearly impossible even though I workout regularly and walk to, from and around campus all day long.

2.) Takes the “fun” out of fitness-Someone may opt out of an activity they genuinely enjoy just so they can reach a number. For example, one might be craving a good yoga sesh, but decides to force themself to go for a run instead. Similarly, they may avoid taking any important rest days even though our bodies need them to rebuild, repair and build muscle.

3.) Becomes disordered-When reaching a specific number controls your life, this turns into a disordered habit. I know some people who will literally walk in circles or will put their device on their pet in order to reach their recommended steps. Not okay.

*Left: Walked around campus & taught a 13 mile spin class. Only 4,000 steps…

*Right: Walked to/from the gym (2.5 miles total), took a 45 min. strength class, AND walked to/from campus (another 2 miles). Still didn’t reach 10,000 steps.

I want to end by saying that I do think fitness trackers and the 10,000 steps/day guidelines are beneficial for some individuals. These include those whom:

  • Work desk jobs
  • Are new to fitness and/or use walking as their primary exercise
  • Are trying to lose weight (and for the right reasons)
  • Are trying to increase their activity level (medical reasons, overall health, etc.)

In sum, one should not be using fitness trackers simply to hit a magical number each day. Instead, they should be used as extra motivators because movement simply makes you feel good. Which isn’t that what life’s all about? Doing things that enhance your life and provide you with joy, not those that take away from it and make you miserable


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