Is step tracking important?

March Madness always kicks off with the step challenge, while this is a competition and we normally will go above and beyond our daily averages for this challenge, the point of the challenge is first, to build some awareness around tracking your movement through use of an activity tracker by looking at steps per day.  The second goal is to consider unique ways to increase the average daily steps we’re taking in our day to day lives..

An activity tracker is simply an electronic device that contains an accelerometer that you wear on your body.  This device detects changes in movement and counts footsteps which then can be calculated to determine things like distance walked, calories burned, speed, and time spent being physically active.   Clip on pedometers, Fitbits, and Apple watches are some of the more popular devices on the market but there are many more available with the surge in fitness tracking.

These products are available, but are they important? 

The typical modern American takes between 4000-6000 steps per day while the daily recommendations sit at 10,000 steps per day as the standard for movement.  What does step tracking tell us? Current research adult activity levels based on total steps per day are as follows:

  • <5000  Sedentary

  • 5000-7499 Low active

  • 7500-9999 Somewhat active

  • 10000-12499 Active

  • >12499 Highly active

If you look at the chart above, you can see that most Americans fall in the Sedentary to Low active categories of movement.  So from a public health standpoint and the strain on our health care system from an overwhelming upsurge chronic diseases with links to sedentary behavior, I’d that these devices can be extremely important and here’s why:

  1. Tracking your steps helps you know, without bias, where you fall into the categories above.  Often times we estimate the amount that we move significantly higher than our actual movement.  

  2. According to the American Council on Health, people who track their steps walk an average of 2500 steps more than those who don’t.  That extra movement is enough to bring you up an entire category level!

  3. Tracking helps you build accountability, it’s very easy to tell whether you hit your daily goal or not.

  4. The data collected from activity trackers can help address public health policy and recommendations

  5. The extra movement you do as a result of wearing your activity tracker makes a significant impact on prevention and management of chronic diseases. 

How to use your activity tracker:

 Step 1: Determine your daily averages over the course of a week.  

 Step 2: Create a plan to slowly beat your weekly step average by 100 steps

 Step 3: Slowly increase by 50-100 daily average steps / week until you reach your goal.

 **A 15-minute walk is roughly the equivalent of 2000 steps

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