Written by Erika Martin BSc Nutrition Candidate
Reviewed by Andrea Miller MHSc, RD
“I need to get my steps in for the day” is something you might have heard from a friend, family member or someone at work. Some people are highly committed to taking 10,000 steps each day, tracked by their watches, smartphones or step counters. Are these people on to something? Is it really important to take that many steps – EVERY day? Put simply, there are many benefits to being as active as possible, and the right step counter can help you gauge how much activity you are really getting in so that you can adjust accordingly.
Benefits of Staying Active/Counting Steps
The general recommendation is to take 10,000 steps per day. While coming close to this has been shown to reduce blood pressure and improve glucose levels, it is not a number to fixate on. The Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology recommends that adults be active for at least 150 minutes each week. This has been shown to reduce risks of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. To meet this recommendation and get these benefits, you would only need to walk between 7,000 to 8,000 steps per day. At the end of the day, how many steps you strive for is a personal choice and should be based on what makes you feel comfortable – and a step counter may help you meet your goals and motivate yourself to do the best that you can.
Step Counters – My Favourites
There are all kinds of step counters out there – wristbands, pocket pedometers, and even apps for your smartphones. Here are some that I’ve had experience with and have enjoyed.
Fitbit – Fitbit wristbands can track your steps, as well as your sleep, weight and food to help you monitor your overall health. You can also sync your data from the wristband to your phone or computer. My favourite feature is that you can use the Fitbit app to do group challenges between friends who also have the wristband, to help keep you motivated.
My Personal favorite is the Alta, which is sleek but still offers the clock face, at a very reasonable price. Fitbit has so many styles to choose from depending on your personal style, price range or needs. Some are even water proof and can be used while swimming.
Apple Watch – If you have an apple watch, then good news: it already has a built-in step counter! It tracks your steps, mileage, activity levels and heart rate. You can even set reminders on the watch telling you to stand up and walk around for those long days sitting in an office chair. You can access your steps through the pedometer app or add it to your watch face to stay updated on your steps at all times.
Any Apple iPhone/Android Smartphone – Not looking to spend money on a watch or step counter? Not a problem! Most iPhones and Androids have a step counter built right in (Apple Health for iPhone, and Google Fit for Android). These will also show how many steps you have taken for the day, flights of stairs climbed and, in some cases, track your sleep. The only downfall is that the steps are only tracked while the phone is on your person, so any steps taken while your phone is set down, will not be counted. That being said, it can still give you some insight on roughly how much activity you are getting for the day.
Tips for Getting in Extra Steps
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator
- Park your car further from where you need to go
- If you take the bus, get off one stop early and walk a little more
- Go for a walk with your dog, or friends/family if you do not have a dog
- Instead of emailing a co-worker, walk over to their desk
- Walk your child to school if you live close
- Walk in place while taking a phone call
- Walk to the grocery store if you only need a few things
- Make it a fun challenge between friends to see who can get more steps
- Take a dance class at your local gym
Share your thoughts on how you stay active and if you use a device to help you reach your goals.