In a technology driven world, it is becoming harder and harder for all of us to stay active.
Despite the fact we all know our health depends on our ability to get regular exercise, it usually the thing we neglect first when our lives get busy.
But thanks to FitBit and some other new tools we now have access to simple data that can serve as a giant wake up call for excessive inactivity.
For those who are less active and need a jolt to move more, this is an outstanding tool.
For active people at all ages, though, there are a few reasons why counting steps should be taken with a grain of salt when it comes to staying fit.
For one, walking does not develop anaerobic conditioning at all. It is a great way to move from completely sedentary to active, and can also serve as a very low intensity recovery activity for very active people, but other than that do not expect much fitness to come from it because you are not entering a heart rate level that builds any of the systems you need for athletic competition.
Secondly, there is no post-exercise oxygen consumption from walking. A high intensity workout can add another 5 to 15 percent of the energy cost of your workout after you finish because your system is taxed at such a high level. So your benefits end when you stop moving, as opposed to many other forms of exercise.
For athletes, the type of steps you take have vastly different effects on your development. One sprint stride is probably worth 10 or more walking strides because they challenge the nervous system to move faster, and have a much greater coordination emphasis. Fitness and speed can be developed together when you are moving quickly, even if it comes in only 1,000-2,000 ‘steps’.
And even more valuable to athletes would be sprinting with changes of direction, also known as agility. The physicial challenge of running, stopping and re-accelerating is far more taxing even sprinting alone, and much, much more so than walking. If you don’t believe me, spend 10 minutes running on a treadmill, then spend 10 more playing fast-paced, full-court basketball and see how heavy you’re breathing after each.
The best way to look at step tracking would be as a minimum standard for daily exercise, but it should never be seen as the piece that will make significant change or even to help you get to a level where you are truly healthy. It is a start for some, a low key recovery day for others, but just a small piece of the overall fitness picture.
For kids it is even less important. Running, jumping, climbing and a host of other activities are far more critical to development than simply taking a certain number of steps. Finding a sport or activity where they can experience a range of challenges would be a better goal, even if the results aren’t as simple to quantify.