10,000 is the magic number for anyone with a fitness tracker, but why 10,000? What's the trick to this magical digit? With more and more people tracking their every move with fitness trackers, what can 10,000 steps really do?
History of 10,000 Steps
The recommended 10,000 steps that we see so regularly on our wrists today actually ventured over from Japan. In the 1960s, Japanese Doctor Yoshiro Hatano was concerned about the rising levels of obesity in the Japanese people and so began to research the activity of the people of his culture. The doctor and his team found that the average person walked 3,000 - 5,000 steps a day. His research found that in order to burn just 20% of their daily calorie intake, most people would need to walk at least 10,000 steps a day.
Dr Hatano then created a pedometer called the “Manpo-Kei” which translates as "10,000 steps meter".
The watch's motivation and simplicity made it become very popular in Japan and it remains popular to this day, so much so that the Japanese government have provided an accuracy measure of 3% which all pedometers must reach. of 3% accuracy for all pedometers sold in their country.
Fast forward to today and the 10,000 steps per day campaign is being backed by huge federations such as the NHS, World Health Organisation, American Heart Association and the US Centers for Disease Control.
Research supporting 10,000 Steps
Today, research has proven that tracking your steps can increase your daily activity and help to improve health. Research published in The American Journal of Preventative Medicine trialled the use of Fitbit as a physical fitness intervention in inactive, postmenopausal women. After 16 weeks of monitoring their activity with a Fitbit, those who wore a Fitbit were significantly more active than the control group.
A study by The American Stroke Association found that daily walking reduced the risk of stroke in men over the age of 60. Walking for at least an hour or two could cut a man’s stroke risk by as much as one-third, and it didn’t matter how brisk the pace was. Taking a three-hour walk each day slashed the risk of stroke by two-thirds.
How far is 10,000 steps?
The average person has a stride length of 2.1 ft, or around 60cm, meaning it takes around 2,000 steps to walk a mile, so 10,000 steps to walk about 5 miles. A brisk 10 minute walk? 1,000 steps. The average inactive person walks anywhere between 3,000 to 7,000 steps a day, so for most reaching 10,000 steps would involve adding a 30-60 minute walk to their daily routine.
How many calories will I burn if I walk 10,000 steps a day?
A person aged 45 and weighing 70kg (about 11 stone) can burn around 400 calories by walking 10,000 steps briskly. If you're trying to lose weight, walking is very low impact and the real difference will come from your nutrition, but adding a walk into your daily routine will definitely help.
10,000 steps helps reverse the dangers of sitting
Part of the 10,000 steps charm is that it gets you up and out of your chair, as sitting for too long has been found to increase your risk of death from multiple health issues such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Research has shown that sitting for more than 8 hours a day is associated with a 90% increased risk of type 2 diabetes. Aiming to reach 10,000 steps simply just by getting up and moving more can reduce your risk of these health issues.
Research also studied the effect of lunchtime walks on the effectiveness of employees at work and found that lunchtime walks improved enthusiasm, relaxation, and nervousness at work.
Walking was also found to improve quality of life for depressed middle-aged women. Those who averaged at least 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity exercise or just over 3.25 hours of walking each week reported feeling more energised and more social at their three-year follow ups.
Fitness tracking started with written logs and spreadsheets in the 1980s but has now evolved into an industry that’s set to be worth $19 billion by 2018. Smart watches can track your steps, sleep, heart rate, and more, and we're becoming more reliant on them than ever. But are we becoming addicted to their feedback? And is that necessarily a bad thing?
Benefits Of Using An Activity Tracker
Fail to plan, plan to fail
Fitness trackers help you to put a plan into place. They give your walk meaning and they help to create a routine which adjusts to fit your daily activity. Fitness trackers give you a fantastic insight into where your fitness is at and where it should be going. They can also provide motivation; if you're 2,000 steps away from your goal, you're more likely to go for a walk around the block to make up the steps.
Fitness trackers give your workout accountability. Every activity will be there for you to view via the app and some trackers even share directly with your social media, so everyone knows what you’ve been getting up to. Fitness trackers also mean you can’t cheat yourself and will give you in black and white exactly what results you got from your last training session.
The leading benefit of tracking your steps, distance, sleep, calories and heart rate amongst other measures is to keep you motivated to do more. Whether it’s to earn a Fitbit gold star or score higher than your friends on Nike Plus, fitness trackers enable that extra incentive that gets you moving more, eating healthier, and going to bed earlier. Putting numerative data on your movement means you’re able to see progress and adjust your activities accordingly.
Those with a competitive streak love a fitness tracker because even if they’re not competing against their friends, they can compete against themselves. Quantifying your fitness makes it easy to monitor progress and up your game when needed. The better you are, the more bragging rights you earn and you’ll have the data to back up your brag.
Activity Trackers In Numbers
- Fitbit users walk 43% more than non-Fitbit users.
- 13.5 million health and fitness trackers (HFTs) were sold in 2014 and the numbers are shooting up every year.
- Currently, around one in seven (14%) Brits own any wearable technology.
- Fitbit (the largest wearable company) has 9.5 million active users.
- Employees equipped with wearable technology reported an 8.5% increase in productivity and a 3.5% increase in job satisfaction.
- Most people who use wearable tech are young; 48% are between 18 and 34.
- Growth in the wearables market is expected to increase 35% by 2019.
Are We Addicted?
The problem with fitness trackers comes with the obsession over numbers which aren’t necessarily 100% accurate, which can then rather ironically lead to some unhealthy habits. Is it good for your mental health to be obsessing over calories and steps every waking hour?It's possible that obsessing over fitness statistics can lead to overtraining, and it's always more important to listen to your body than your tracker. Having it as a support system is great, but never forget that it's all just for fun and is nothing to lose sleep over.
Fitness trackers and smartwatches are enjoying huge success at the moment. With 1 in 3 people set to own one within a few years, it's important you know how to make the most of yours! More companies than ever are hopping onto the bandwagon, with giants like Apple, Garmin and even Epson getting involved, it seems everyone wants a slice of the action. If you have a tracker wrapped around your wrist, here are some top tips and tricks on how to get the most out of your device.
1. Wear the watch on your less dominant arm
Whilst a lot of fitness watches have apps where you can enter which hand you're wearing the watch on, there are multiple advantages to wearing your watch on the less dominant hand. Fitness trackers can be an expensive investment, so placing it on your less dominant hand means it is less likely to get bashed and bumped while you move. Your less dominant arm moves less, which means you are less likely to get incorrect data from your tracker thinking you're taking steps when you're not, for example. Finally, wearing your fitness tracker on your less dominant hand can provide more accurate sleep data.
2. Make sure you can connect your wearable via Bluetooth
If you find that your fitness tracker is struggling to connect to your phone via Bluetooth, make sure your phone is not also connected to lots of other apps via Bluetooth (ie car speakers or wireless headphones.)
3. Don’t be fooled by inaccurate data readings
It's important to take your fitness readings with a pinch of salt. Particularly if your tracker has a built-in heart rate monitor, it will never be as accurate as a chest strap. Your step count may be slightly out and your calories too, so just make sure you are relaxed about your readings and don't let them affect the rest of your training and your nutrition.
4. Keep it charged
Never start the day with low battery because you know by the time you make it to the gym, your battery is going to have died. Many wearables will have settings in the app which can optimise your battery usage, such as switching off all-day sync or swapping to battery saving mode, but really it's a matter of scheduling an appropriate time to add into your routine for wearable charging. If your watch isn’t waterproof, why not charge your watch when you're in the shower? It will help you to remember to take it off before showering and prevent breaking it as well as getting you into the routine of charging it regularly.
5. Utilise and sync with other apps
Leading fitness apps such as Myfitnesspal, Strava and Map my Run work with most fitness wearables to give you a more rounded picture of your health and can enhance your tracker’s data to help you reach your full potential. If you really want to get the most out of your tracker, sync with other apps to enhance your experience.
6. Create an accurate user profile
With most wearables apps, you're asked to set up your user account before using the device. Data such as your age, weight, height and gender are entered before you can get started so that your tracker can analyse your profile and give you accurate readings. Make sure that you keep your measurements as accurate as possible so that you can get the most from your tracker - if you're not sure of your weight, go and weigh yourself, if you're not sure of your height, ask someone to measure you. It'll be worth it!
7. Be consistent
The more data you give to your tracker, the more accurate the analysis will be. If you have an all-day activity tracker with built-in heart rate monitor, step counter, sleep tracker etc then make sure you do wear it all day and make the most of the features. The more you run, bike, and walk, the more your tracker will be able to analyse your habits and give you a clearer picture of your health and fitness stats. For example, Garmin trackers that offer VO2 Max readings will need you to run consistently to get an accurate reading and they can offer race predictions after a few consistent training runs.
8. Add friends
Sharing your progress with friends can inspire you to work harder, and can incentivise them to get involved too! Most fitness apps allow you to add friends so that you can view each other's progress, but not only that, you can get competitive and race against each other. Start competitions or challenges and go head to head with friends or running club buddies to encourage you to stay consistent with your training and push yourself harder than if you were training alone.
9. Update your progress
As you gain or lose weight, your training stats will change. For example, if your starting weight is 140lbs but you drop to 120lbs, you will be burning fewer calories by doing the same things. Make sure you let your tracker/app know when you have lost or gained weight, had a birthday, anything that may affect your training stats.
10. Remember to wear it
As mentioned above, consistency is key. It'd be a shame to get a good streak going and then forget to wear your watch. Try to wear it every day (and every night if it tracks sleep) so that you can make the most of the data. However, remember that the stats are just a guide and try not to get too bogged down! It's all for fun and is supposed to help you lead a healthier life, not get stressed because you're constantly checking your heart rate or sleep pattern.
Looking for a new smartwatch or fitness tracker? Check out our ‘Wearables Review’ section to get the latest info on which watch is right for you!