You raise the blade, you make the change
I apologize now if this post reads negatively. You may construe it as being negative but it isn’t. Sometimes when we read or hear something that dispels common beliefs or your own beliefs we tend to call the messenger negative. Someone who believes they are realistic are commonly referred to as negative. Hopefully in the end though this article won’t be viewed as negative. I hope to provide enough data that this will be the case.
Steps. Getting your steps in. I work in an office environment and I sit on the perimeter of a large amount of cubicles. I often have people walking by where I sit because they got to get their steps in. Recently there has been a new recruit in the pursuit of getting steps in. This person is much younger than the others, not that that really matters other than showing the demographic of step getters has expanded from people in late adulthood to people in their early adulthood years. I was intrigued by this new stepper and decided to ask her some questions. Basically the idea is to reach your goal of daily steps to keep fit and stay active.
Unfortunately some people, or maybe most people look at fitness trackers, or more specifically ‘getting my steps in’ as a substitute for real exercise. If you are someone who for medical reasons cannot participate in a form of exercise that increases your heart rate to at least 80%, or cannot participate in any resistance training then I’m ok if getting your steps in is all you do.
But if you do not fall into the above then getting in steps should be something in addition to your workout. If you are desk bound at your job then great, a reminder to get up and walk around. Everyone should get out of their chair frequently regardless of being at work or home. But many times this becomes the substitute to the workout. People actually think they are doing their part to keep themselves healthy. And this gives a false sense of security.
Why is that? Because getting in 10,000 steps doesn’t take into consideration the intensity. And what about duration? If it took me 8 hours to get in 10,000 steps there really isn’t much of a benefit other than being mobile, or somewhat mobile. My heart rate isn’t increasing that much if at all so I’m not realizing the benefits from a high intense workout. And why 10,000? If I am really active in my life, I run 3x a week, or I swim, does getting in 10,000 steps a day benefit me? Maybe I should be getting in 30,000 steps?
This process of getting in 10,000 steps also give people a false sense of achievement. They no longer feel guilty about eating that second piece of cake, or having an additional doughnut. It becomes a justification to indulge: “hey, pass me another piece of pie, I got room, I got my 10,000 steps in today!”. Not to be crass but this happens. Let’s just say of all the ‘stepper’s’ there are where I work, none of them would appear to be healthy. Not by a slim margin but a large margin. I’d even go as far to say they would fall under the obese category for body weight.
As a personal trainer I like to find out why people are getting in their steps and what they feel the benefit is. I have to take a somewhat detached approach because if I don’t my personal trainer side, and also my side of me that wants to help people will come out. My tendencies to let them know that this should be in addition to a regular intense workout that includes resistance training doesn’t go over well. And I have to work with these people too so I don’t need to make any enemies.
I don’t want to say it’s a cult but some of these steppers are hardcore about the benefits and it is almost like a badge of honor, like they just completed a triathlon. Stepping with pride. And these fitness trackers aren’t cheap either so telling someone that their fitness tracker is not the panacea for achieving a healthy life style can be a really downer.
Is it that we live in an age where the goal is feeling good about ourselves regardless of the cost, both monetarily and health wise? Is it the marketing? Is it wanting to belong to a group that drives us to do this?
I don’t know. Maybe some of these or all of them.
Or I might know what it is. People have their minds made up and don’t want to change. If they change it means they were wrong. And that’s hard to accept. I see it once in a while You interact with someone over a number of months and they aren’t making any fitness gains. So you talk to them and express what they should be doing. Either they change or they don’t. Mostly they don’t. They don’t change what they are doing and they don’t change physically because they DON’T change what they are doing. For sure, it could be me, the messenger. But I think it’s fair to say most times it’s the person. Stubbornness, pride, fearing the unknown. Some people don’t want to change because they may feel there are consequences to being a different person. As an example becoming vegan for some people is tough because of the social impact. You can no longer eat grandma’s turkey at thanksgiving, or going to a friends BBQ may mean bringing your own food and having to deal with the questions around that. Some people just don’t want to deal with that. Maybe I’m reading too much into it. But I do believe psychology plays a huge role in fitness and health.
But I digress.
If you get yourself a fitness tracker use it to it’s fullest. Use it for the heart rate monitor so you know you are hitting that 90% bpm when training intensely. Use it to monitor your sleep so you know you are resting well. Use it for steps to get yourself out of the chair at the office but only for that reason, not as a substitute for a good workout.
Yours in health,