News & Insights 16 October 2020

Every movement counts – not just your step count!

During these unprecedent times, many people have been restricted to the safety of their own home much more so than usual. This has considerably limited peoples’ physical activity in certain ways, in particular reducing their step count. One study reported a 15% decline in step count from UK users just 17 days after the declaration of COVID-19 as a pandemic, suggesting that our physical activity has meaningfully declined. However, focusing solely on step count ignores a crucial fact about physical activity – being physically active does not require you to take a single step.

You may have heard the number 10,000 being discussed as a key daily target in terms of step count. However, in reality, there is nothing special about the number 10,000 in terms of health benefits. In fact, it is thought to have come from a Japanese pedometer called ‘manpo-kei’ (’10,000 step meter’) marketed in the run-up to the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. For more information on the truth about steps, take a look at our previous blog. However, it is an easy goal to remember and to measure and has provided benefits by encouraging people to get moving whilst aiming for this 10,000 step goal.

In a recent blog, we considered how beneficial fitness trackers actually are for your health. Despite providing positive effects in terms of encouraging people to be less sedentary, it has also led to some detrimental consequences for individuals’ mental health. The arbitrary and generalised value of 10,000 steps a day does not consider individual differences – in particular it fails to account for any health conditions you may have. Aiming for this specific number of steps can be demotivating when not achieved, or can cause obsessive behaviours and dependency on the fitness tracker. This can prevent a healthy relationship being made with physical activity and poses the risk that if the tracker is taken away, the behaviour will then stop. At KiActiv®, we do not believe in a one-size-fits-all when it comes to physical activity, and believe in providing personalised, individual feedback to ensure these detrimental outcomes are avoided!

Another study, which was written by researchers at Harvard Medical School and published in the Journal of American Medical Association, furthered the debate on the effectiveness of aiming for 10,000 steps a day. This study measured the step counts of ~17,000 elderly women over four years, finding that noticeable health benefits could be seen well before the 10,000 step mark was reached. For example, there was a 40% reduction in mortality rate in the group of women that were the least active at the beginning (2,700 steps a day), when increasing their step count to just 4,400 steps a day. Despite this value being less than half of the ‘magic’ 10,000 step goal, there was still a significant impact on health. So, is fixating on the 10,000 step value really necessary?

We hope that during the difficulties of the Covid-19 pandemic, you have found ways to keep moving. The restrictions are likely to have limited you to activities within your home environment, such as gardening, housework and other indoor activities. Yet, despite all of these activities providing excellent health benefits, they won’t necessarily have had a huge impact on your daily step count. This means that using only your step count as a measure of activity will not accurately reflect the amount of movement you have actually done. This is really important to keep in mind, particularly whilst restrictions still remain in place, that step count does not provide the whole picture! Here at KiActiv®, we strive to help you appreciate the multi-dimensional nature of physical activity, and can help you to understand what activities benefit your health and wellbeing. Every movement counts – not just your step count!

The KiActiv® Team