Do Steps Really Matter When Trying to Be Fit?

Taking Steps
25 Aug

Last Updated on August 25, 2016 by Michael Brockbank

Every where you look today, step counters are attached to people. Whether it’s the Fitbit like I wear or smartphone apps that track your movement, so many people are wrapped up in how many steps they take in a day. But is it really a measure of fitness? While any movement is beneficial, step goals may not be as important as you might think.

How Many Steps Do You Get in a Day?

Walking is one of the easiest activities you can do for fitness. It’s something most people have been doing most of their life. It works various parts of the body while improving blood flow. This is one of the reasons why manufacturers and app developers put effort into accurate tracking.

Setting goals for the number of steps you take in a day can be very beneficial to your health. However, it all depends on whether or not you can increase your heart rate. The higher your heart rate climbs, the more calories your body is burning.

When you’re setting step goals for the day, you’re essentially giving yourself 24 hours to meet the objective. A lot of experts want you to get 10,000 every day. Depending on your gait, this can be the equivalent of five miles. However, these goals don’t mean much if you spread them out throughout the entire day.

Movement Equals Burn

Walking for HealthYou will burn more calories during a sustained walk than you will if you spread it out over time. It’s relatively easy to rack up two to three thousand steps every day just walking around the house or going to work. Since this is over the span of the day, you’re not really working your body into a sweat. Well, I suppose that depends on your job.

The point is, it takes sustaining a pace to get the heart rate to increase. Take me, for example. During a regular day, I can amass 900 steps just getting up and taking the kids to school. My calorie burn is roughly two to three every minute during this process. However, I can burn between six and seven per minute if I take a 900 step walk around the block.

Distance Traveled Versus Intensity

To get your body into the “fat-burn” or “cardio” zone, you need to intensify the activity. It’s not necessarily the number of steps you take or the distance you travel in any given day. It’s how intense the workout becomes over time. Walking an extra 1,000 paces throughout the day is a slight improvement overall, but 1,000 within 20 minutes will cause your body to burn more calories, fats and carbs.

Think of it this way: it’s the distance you travel within a certain period of time that is the most effective. Here’s another example.

I have an average pace of just over 16 minutes when I walk a mile. When I walk the same distance with my wife, who is much slower than I, it takes us 22 minutes. I’ll get more of a workout when I walk by myself even though the distance is the exact same. This is because I am putting more effort into movement to increase my speed.

Setting Goals for Steps

For those who don’t walk enough, such as myself, increasing any kind of movement is going to make a profound difference. Over time, certain activities will seem easier and easier as your body strengthens itself. However, the number of paces you set for your goal and the amount of time you give yourself to meet the objective will dictate how healthy you become.

Fitness Buddy WalkingEven if you pass your daily goal by five steps, it’s still a victory. Be realistic and set goals you can achieve. The last thing you’ll want to do is set yourself up for failure. I would suggest discovering your average pace throughout the week and set the next week’s goal to surpass your average movement. Keep increasing your average movement every week.

Because of my lifestyle, I don’t focus on trying to get more steps in the day. For me, it’s all about the calorie burn. Luckily, the Fitbit Charge HR can be set for calorie goals instead of steps. Don’t get me wrong, I would still like to increase my mobility. But I use Runkeeper to track my monthly average distance.

Walking Is Still Beneficial

Although I don’t put a lot of faith in steps, walking is still an excellent exercise. It doesn’t cost you anything but a pair of shoes and it’s something you can do regardless of what the weather is like. For example, I often walk around the house just to get my heart rate up whether it’s sunny or raining.

It’s obvious that any movement beyond your average is going to help your fitness. Whether you’re counting steps or calories, it’s all about keeping the body moving as often as possible. Don’t be discouraged if you can’t keep up with your friends. As long as you’re able to improve your own records, that is all that matters.

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