10,000 Steps + Activity Trackers: The benefits are more than physical

I’ve noticed a whole heap of change. I feel like my creativity is coming back. My productivity levels have gone through the roof. It’s strange because I’m taking out almost an hour a day to take a walk
— Darren Rowse, opening address, Problogger Conference 2015

Until very recently my past-self had never considered tracking her daily steps.  And a wearable activity tracker like a FitBit hadn't crossed my mind.  I'd given the whole 10,000 steps a day movement the cold shoulder. Awkwardly, I'd categorised it as a 'nice' hobby for the retired.

10,000 steps might be a good thing

It's interesting how quickly we can change our minds and get into something new.   Sometimes someone suggests something and we become a little intrigued.   Particularly when they've had fairly big success with it.

Well, that happened for me and the 10,000 steps thing.  2 weeks on and I've transformed into an activity wristband wearer and an avid stepper.   Sure I've had bandaids on my feet after stepping close to 15,000 steps to walk to a trivia night in clogs.  But I'm into it. 

10,000 steps has transformed others

So what was the turning point?  What got me into counting steps?  Well, I recently went away to a Problogger conference -  on my own.  Far out,  having a chunk of time-out from the day to day of being a mum was heavenly - but that's a story for another time.

Anyway, the opening session was by Darren Rowse, the actual Problogger guy himself.  He's a calmly speaking, Australian dad of 3 boys and husband to a fashion blogger.  An educator & blogging companion to hundreds of thousands.  Someone who I expect is easy to chat with - despite his success.  He talked about a lot of really good stuff.  Not actually to do with blogging.  About looking after yourself - your health and your state of mind.  

His point.  If you do that, your work will be better.    Whether it be blogging, writing, running a business.   Whatever. In a year, he did a lot of awesome stuff to give his health a boost.  In the process he become happier.  And he shed a hefty 15 kilos in body weight.  

Really think about your moving habits

As I was listening to him talk I was feeling pretty chuffed with myself.  I was thinking I was all over it all.   I intermittent fast, stand to work, batch my day, listen to podcasts and read books.  But I wasn't as up there quite as much as I thought.  I wasn't doing a bunch of things Darren was doing to improve his health.  

One of them was counting my steps.

Darren has committed to a one hour daily lunch time walk.  For him, it's non-negotiable.  And since he started he's averaged around 12,000 steps a day.

Are you moving enough?

I decided one of my action items from the conference was to get into this stepping thing.  I realised that while I was doing Pilates most days on my reformer I certainly wasn't moving enough. 

So the very next day I started.  I began a 10,000 step a day minimum.

It began in Japan

Like me, you may be wondering where the figure of 10,000 came from.  In summary, it originated in Japan -  in the 1960's - apparently part of a marketing campaign to sell pedometers.  After a few decades it caught on in other parts of the world as a simple way to lead a healthier life.

Since that initial campaign, medical authorities around the world seem to agree that 10,000 is a healthy number to aim for.  You can read more about it in the resource links below.

Is 10,000 the right number for me?

You'll find there's a bundle of articles discussing whether the a target of 10,000 steps is right for everyone.   Essentially it boils down to this.  It's good to do 10,000 steps if you're in fairly good health.  If you're obese or have any other health problems you may need to go for less and it's important to talk with your doctor.  

Of course eating well goes hand in hand with stepping.  No point blowing it on pizza, chocolate and ice-cream.  If you do want to eat that way. You might need to do a whole lot more than 10,000.

Should you buy a wearable activity tracker?

Look, you can use your iPhone to count your steps.  It happens through the health app - the white square with the red love heart.  You may discover your phone has already been tracking your steps without you knowing it.

On day one of my 10,000 steps monitoring.  I used my phone. After day one I wanted a wristband tracker.

Why not simply track steps with your phone?

The main reason - accuracy.  The phone is good but the problem is you have to have it with you all the time.  Sure we have our phones with us a lot -  but not all the time.  

For example, I did 6,000+ steps the other day charging around the house.  Tidying up before our cleaner came.  Normally I wouldn't have my phone in my pocket all the time at home.  It's often charging on a bench.  Those steps would be missed without a wearable tracker.

What's the best activity tracker for counting steps?

Ok, you can make this as complicated or as uncomplicated as you like.There are like a million reviews out there on wearable devices.  And of course,  tons of devices to choose from.   I'm really working on not over-researching -  a bad habit of mine that can leave me with less time to do other things.   I gave myself a 30 minute limit to Google the 'best activity tracker'. 

There wasn't a lot of science to my choice.  I liked one particular review.  It was up to date.  It was comprehensive.  And the guy seemed to know what he was talking about.  It came down to the FitBit HR or Jawbone. I chose the Fitbit HR.  I liked what it looked like better and the review said it was good. 

I kept my research to 30 minutes.  You might want to do more analysis when choosing your device.  You can.  Go crazy.  There's plenty of information out there.  

Factors to consider when buying an activity tracker

To help you decide you might like to consider these things when making a choice.

Wristband or clip on  I chose a wristband.  Why?  Because I'd lose a clip on.  

Price  There are watches at all price points.  It depends on what functionality you want.   I was looking for something less than $200.  That helped narrow down my choices     

Functionality  Each tracker has different functions.  The most basic count calories and steps.  The middle of the roaders count steps, sleep and heartbeat.  Further up the scale you'll get a GPS tracker and other fancy functions. I went with the middle option.  

Link with your phone and PC via an app  I don't know if they all do it.  The FitBit HR did.  I wanted this function. You can get the FitBit app on your phone and desktop.  All your stats are there.   Track your average weekly and monthly steps and lots of other details.  If you're really into it, you can join online stepping groups via the app to help motivate you.  

Design  Like I said.  I liked the look of the one I chose.  If you're going to be wearing this thing on your arm all the time you might as well like it.   We all have different tastes.      

Size of wristband  I nearly missed this.    Some wearables have different size options.  Small or large. I nearly chose small.  I thought female would be small and male large.   Wrong.  When I measured my wrist on the measurement guide on the back of the box I was large.  Lucky I checked.  I would have torn open the box and it wouldn't have fit. 

Skin sensitivity  A heads up. There's a bit of talk out there about some of the devices causing skin irritation.  That's not a biggy for me but it might be for you.  FitBit suggests you wear the band so it moves slightly on your arm. You should also take it off occasionally to give your skin a break.  I've been taking mine off at night. 

Tips for doing 10,000 steps

I've found that unless I  do a solid hour of walking a day it's tricky to get to 10,000 steps.    You may need to be a little creative with how you sneak them in.  I'd love to hear other suggestions.  Here's a few I've been using. 

1-hour daily walk  

Like Darren Rowse, I try to block out a one-hour podcast walk.  The problem is sometimes it doesn't happen. Sick children home from school have been my big problem.  I've had to think of other ways to get my steps in those days.   

Walking Meetings

Instead of burying yourself in an office for your next meeting.  Take a walk.  Often this will keep the meeting from going overtime as well.  It serves all sorts of benefits.  You're likely to be more productive after a walk outside.  Not lethargic after a long time sitting down indoors.

Walk to your night out

Instead of driving to dinner or to an event, consider walking. We recently walked an hour both ways to a fundraising trivia night. Chatting on the way there and back and cracked the 20,000 mark.  I only wish I hadn't walked in high heel clogs.

Walk to Work

My husband takes this option.  He walks to work both ways.  He uses the time for his own self-development - listening to podcasts and audio books.  Often he walks and makes his work calls. He leaves his office shoes at work and walks in trainers.

Walk instead of coffee or lunch catchup

I love this one.  A lot of my friends say they prefer to do this.  Instead of sitting for an hour sipping a coffee with a friend.  You walk together instead.  You still catch up.  You still chat.  

Often you talk more openly when you walk and talk.  It's less intense somehow.  

Final Thoughts

I'm really glad I opened my mind to learn more about something I'd previously underestimated.  In just a few short weeks of walking and moving more I've gained more than just a physical benefit.  My mind feels clearer, I'm sleeping more soundly and I've never listened to so many podcasts.

Question: What's your experience with counting your steps.  Your comments may help others. I'd love you to leave a comment below.

10,000 Step Resources

Review: Best Fitness Trackers 2015   The review I used to buy an activity tracker.  I did click through to a few of the other articles on the same website.

10,000 Steps Website Links to Australia, UK, USA.  This seems to be the 'official' 10,000 steps webite.  It gives some history. You can get involved in stepping challenges and buy the original pedometer.

How many steps a day should you really walk?  An interesting article considering different categories of people.  For some non-movers 10,000 may be too much.  Children should probably do more than 10,000.