Are you getting the most out of your activity (step) tracker? The availability and popularity of wearable fitness trackers (or simply wearables), such as Fitbit and Jawbone recently ranked as the number one fitness trend in the American College of Sports Medicine’s annual report1. I see clients each week that are getting involved in a step challenge at work or with friends. With more time required in front of a computer or at a desk and with the food centric holiday still lingering for some, this is a welcome venture to keep active and focused.
While challenges tend to focus on total steps as the single metric, at what point we should turn our focus to quality versus just simply quantity? Even some of the most basic wearables have the ability to track beyond steps at this point. I’ve seen some very detailed graphs and representations of heart rate and caloric expenditure increase following workouts. In fact, Fitbit users will now see a report following being logged into our Mindbody system showing work done during the session.
When should the focus turn from total steps to increased intensity? Take for instance what usually makes up our total steps, it’s a combination of walking, going up and down stairs, maybe even jogging and running, with potentially variable inclines. These “steps” are far from equal. I’ll take 2000 steps up and down stairs versus walking at the mall for burning calories and improving fitness. I am by no means discouraging people from being active. My goal as a coach isn’t the dreaded - it’s “better than nothing” thinking, it’s what’s the “best you can be” and how do we get there mentality. I am posing the question - At what point do YOU increase the challenge of your steps?
Perhaps you’ve noticed that you get 5000 steps during a routine day around the office and home (low activity day) and 7500 when you are more active and make it to the gym. Good now we’ve collected your baseline and can set some goals.
Example of Updated Goals
Low activity day example:
5000 steps still a focus on quantity (volume) - Try to increase to 5500 steps - 10% increase.
This will ensure you are aware of being active/not being sedentary during a time when movement is lower.
Higher activity day example:
7500 steps start to look at markers of quality (intensity) - Heart rate, total caloric expenditure, fitness increase (i.e. you can perform more work in less time during your METCON’s), recovery time (i.e. ability to recover faster during intervals shows increased fitness level).
This guarantees you are making the most of your exercise time and focusing on continual progress independent of your low activity day/times.
My challenge to you this week is to find your baseline numbers and find ways to increase the intensity of what you are doing beyond a specific step point. This is a sure fire way to continually improve fitness, increase calories expended, and get you to your goals of being fitter faster!
Jeremy Smith, MS, CSCS
Owner/Director of Sports Performance