Recently, I have found myself becoming rather attached to some wearable technology. As part of my life insurance policy, in order to receive benefits I have to record my activity levels through a Garmin watch, which means I am constantly looking at my stats and doing more.
If wearable technology is increasing our activity levels it must be a good thing, right? Take Pokémon Go. This game encouraged sedentary people to become active, getting players to walk in order to ‘catch’ their favourite character. However, the impact was short term, and players’ steps were back to their normal average six weeks after downloading the game.
Fitness trackers such as Fitbits, Garmin, Apple Watches, Polar Watches and Apps for your phones are readily available and help us monitor our activity levels. With most of us aiming for 10,000 steps a day and some insurance companies offering reward points if you manage 10,000 in a day. But why 10,000 steps? According to research, and backed up by this article, 10,000 steps was a simple marketing ploy and a literal translating of a Japanese pedometer. The reason behind the release of the pedometer was to increase the number of daily steps Japanese people took in order to keep the population slim.
If the target of 10,000 steps comes from Japan in the 1960s and has no scientific research showing the benefits of achieving 10,000 steps could we get away with less, say 5,000 steps? As the law of diminishing returns, more is not always better. We are constantly told that sitting is the new smoking, with sitting still in front of the TV and at our desk for long periods being linked to higher mortality rates through diseases such as cancer, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
What can we do instead of 10,000 steps?
Over the years through various fitness people and programs by Dr Michael Mosley on the BBC, the fitness industry has seen more and more gym members incorporating High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) into their gym routines. In his most recent program on the BBC ‘The Truth About Exercise’ Dr Michael Mosley showed that short intense sprints on an exercise bike, 2 x 20 second sprints three days a week are just as beneficial, if not more effective, than steady state cardio – running at the same pace for 45 minutes.
Not quite ready for some HIIT, why not try walking vigorously for 10 minutes three times a day. ‘The Truth About Exercise’ showed walking vigorously 3 x 10 minutes a day to be more beneficial than reaching 10,000 steps. The emphasis during the 10 minutes is to increase your heart rate.
Not a fan of walking or HIIT? Why not try commuting to work by bicycle. Cycling to and from work showed a 41% lower risk of dying when compared to commuting by car or public transport.
When deciding which type of exercise is best for you, it’s so important to consider where you are starting from. If you are currently achieving 2000 steps a day, increasing to 10,000 is a big jump. Set yourself a target of increasing your step count by 1000 steps a day for a week. Once you achieve your new target, increase it by a further 1000 step, repeat until you reach 10,000 steps. It might take a month or two, but it will be worth it! You also need to consider if your body is prepared to carry out HITT. Where ever you currently are, a slight increases in the intensity and duration is what is required. Set yourself a goal, and re-evaluate once the goal is achieved.
What ever you decide you need to be enjoying what we’re doing, in order to find the ‘will’ to work a little harder several days a week. This could be playing a team sport, racket sports, walking, running or hitting the gym. Whatever you choose to do, do something you like and enjoy.