10,000 Steps

10,000 Steps

Lauren PesinWednesday,11 March 2015

Recently I’ve been swept up in the of the activity tracker craze. My initial question once I purchased my Fitbit was, “why 10,000 steps?”

Unfortunately the reasons I found were not so much scientific as they were a holdover from a study done by a Japanese Doctor in the 1960s. More recent studies and Doctors have reported 10,000 steps is generally around the right amount. In a society of humans that walk on average anywhere from 2500 to 7500, more is better. Therefore, the daily goal of 10,000 is not a very scientific or meaningful milestone, but it does hopefully get us moving more and being more aware. I know at least, for me it’s been motivating.

The first question leads me to my second question. How does Fitbit or any other tracker calculate steps? How can two people walking the same mile track 2000 and 2600 steps?

I haven’t researched the math behind every tracker. Since I have one, I researched and experimented with a Fitbit. Their website reports, “Fitbit trackers use a 3-axis accelerometer to understand your motions by turning movement into digital measurements when attached to the body.” The scientific details of how it works include concepts of motion, patterns, thresholds, and algorithms.

This works out to my advantage as I’m vertically challenged, needing more steps than most people to accommodate for my diminutive legs. The revelation that I’ve taken more steps in my life to get to the same places was thought provoking. My 6”2 husband and I have walked many miles over the years. We may have walked the same distance, but apparently I’ve taken 3 or 4 times the amount of steps. Consequently, I deserve to have more steps counted. With few advantages to being short I’m going to own this one.

For personal amusement I’ve tried different techniques and movements to determine how my baby steps are counted. Can I trick the counter into adding steps if I’m driving or sitting in my chair whilst mimicking stepping movements? Is it considered “cheating?” My contention is that if you are moving or stepping it’s not really cheating. I haven’t found a way to get steps that doesn’t involve a level of effort equal or greater than actually walking. I guess my attempts attest to the science behind the counting algorithm.

With all the available smart device apps out there that can count steps, heart rates, and also do much more than your basic activity trackers, why the craze over wearable trackers?

I found in my random sampling of tracker enthusiasts, competitors, and interested peeps that we simply like to easily view our success and failure. With a glance at our wrist we can get a silent pat on the back for staying on track or a kick in the butt to pick up the pace. Tracker buddies that immediately compare daily counts and work to overcome each other’s metrics also serve to boost our drive. Additionally, I often peripherally notice friends and strangers wearing familiar bands. I’m compelled to always want to ask other trackers, “How many steps do you have?”

The concept of an activity tracker could be applied to various life activities and habits. The goal may not be as high as 10,000, but what about counting smiles, kisses, I love you’s, compliments, or hugs? No, I’m not a Care Bear. I’m trying to think of happy things to count. These examples may not be possible or desirable to count, but it makes me think about the possibilities of doing more each day that’s good for everyone.

Do you have any ideas on activity we should count?

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Image Credit: Flickr



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