Step To It!
The Canadian Society of Exercise Physiology (CSEP) and the Public Health Agency of Canada recommend approximately 150 minutes per week of moderate physical activity (1,2).
Unfortunately, only approximately 49% of Canadians aged 18-79 get this amount (3), giving us an overall grade of C…which may have been a good enough grade to pass high school chemistry, but not enough to help prevent a variety of chronic diseases (such as high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, cancer, dementia, depression, and osteoporosis) in the general population.
What can we do about it?
For better or for worse, devices have revolutionized the way we live, eat, shop, and work. Fitbits, pedometers, smart phones, and other off-the-shelf accelerometers have become more popular helping us to count our steps as well as track our energy expenditure and overall activity habits. You don’t need the most expensive step-counter on the market – a recent study has shown that using these devices (even the cheapest of pedometers) can help improve our physical activity levels on average (in both the short AND long-term) by ~400-1100 steps (4)!
But how many steps do I really need?
10,000 steps per day has been commonly spouted as the best goal for most adults to attain a healthy physical activity level (5) – and can be traced back to Japanese walking clubs in the 1970’s & 1980’s (6). However, this one-size-fits-all approach is not ideal for everyone…10,000 steps is likely too low for children who need to burn off energy (6). CSEP recommends a minimum of 60 minutes per day of moderate to vigorous activity for kids aged 5-17 (7). However, 10,000 steps is likely too high and unsustainable for the elderly or those with chronic diseases (6) and may increase risk of overuse injuries (8).
A recent meta-analysis (which summarizes and analyzes the results from several different studies – in this case 16 different studies) found that there was the most dramatic DECREASE in overall risk of death and cardiovascular disease when daily step count increased from sedentary levels (ie. less than 1,500 steps/day) to 5,000-7,000 steps/day (5,8). But improving daily step count beyond 7,000 steps towards the popularly coveted 10,000 step goal only slightly further decreased this risk of death and cardiovascular disease (5,8).
Long story short, for those who want to start a journey towards a more physically active lifestyle, gradually increasing overall activity level and working towards 5,000-7,000 steps per day not only benefits health and decreases overall risk of mortality. It’s likely more sustainable and less likely to cause overuse injuries.
Be aware that these off-the-shelf accelerometers (within most smart watches and fitness monitors) are NOT perfect. These devices commonly over- or under-estimate your step count by around 9-13% (9,10) and become even LESS accurate (up to 20-30%) with slower gait patterns (10). This translates to a 900-1300 step difference in an approximate 10,000 step day. For example, if your device displays the coveted 10,000 steps, you may have actually done anywhere between 8,700 and 11,300 steps. While these devices can provide a good estimate of overall physical activity level, they are not 100% accurate.
For more information about designing an exercise program that works for you and how to best use these smart-devices to help reach your activity level goals, contact any of our physiotherapists or kinesiologists here at InReach Physio.
By: Susan Herdman, Registered Physiotherapist
Book a telephysio / online physio / virtual physio / video physiotherapy appointment with a registered physiotherapist in British Columbia. InReach Online Physio services communities in northern and rural BC, such as Masset, Queen Charlotte, Fraser Lake, Fort Nelson, Fort St James, Dease Lake, Fort St John, Dawson Creek, the Gulf Islands, and more!
Public Health Agency of Canada. Physical Activity Tips for Adults (18-64 years): Tips to Get Active. Accessed Aug 22/22: https://www.canada.ca/content/dam/phac-aspc/migration/phac-aspc/hp-ps/hl-mvs/pa-ap/assets/pdfs/07paap-eng.pdf
Canadian Society of Exercise Physiology. The Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for Adults (18-64): Make your whole day matter. Accessed Aug 22/22: https://csepguidelines.ca/guidelines/adults-18-64/
Participaction. 2021. Adult Report Card: Moderate-to-Vigorous Physical Activity (MVPA). Accessed Aug 22/22: https://www.participaction.com/en-ca/resources/adult-report-card
Chaudhry UAR, Wahlich C, Fortescue R, Cook DG, Knightly R, & Harris T. The effects of step-count monitoring interventions on physical activity: systematic review and meta-analysis of community-based randomised controlled trials in adults. Int J Behav Nut & Physical Activity 2020. 17:129; https://doi.org/10.1186/s12966-020-01020-8. Accessed Aug 22/22: https://ijbnpa.biomedcentral.com/track/pdf/10.1186/s12966-020-01020-8.pdf
Sheng M, Yang J, Bao M, Chen T, Cai R, Zhang N, Chen H, Liu M, Wu X, Zhang B, Liu Y, & Chao J. The relationships between step count and all-cause mortality and cardiovascular events: A dose–response meta-analysis. J Sport & Health Science. 2021; 10 (6), Pg 620-628; ISSN 2095-2546. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jshs.2021.09.004. Accessed Aug 22/22: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2095254621001010
Tudor-Locke C, Bassett DR Jr. How many steps/day are enough? Preliminary pedometer indices for public health. Sports Med. 2004;34(1):1-8. doi: 10.2165/00007256-200434010-00001. PMID: 14715035. Accessed Aug 22/22: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/14715035/
Canadian Society of Exercise Physiology. The Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for Children (5-11) and Youth (12-17). Accessed Aug 22/22: https://csepguidelines.ca/guidelines/children-youth/
Ingraham, P. Pain Science: Big health benefits from far fewer than 10k steps per day. Accessed Aug 22/22: https://www.painscience.com/blog/big-health-benefits-from-far-fewer-than-10k-steps-per-day.html
Tedesco S, Sica M, Ancillao A, Timmons S, Barton J, O'Flynn B. Validity Evaluation of the Fitbit Charge2 and the Garmin vivosmart HR+ in Free-Living Environments in an Older Adult Cohort. JMIR Mhealth Uhealth. 2019 Jun 19;7(6):e13084. doi: 10.2196/13084. PMID: 31219048; PMCID: PMC6607774. Accessed Aug 22/22: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31219048/
Feehan LM, Geldman J, Sayre EC, Park C, Ezzat AM, Yoo JY, Hamilton CB, Li LC. Accuracy of Fitbit Devices: Systematic Review and Narrative Syntheses of Quantitative Data. JMIR Mhealth Uhealth. 2018 Aug 9;6(8):e10527. doi: 10.2196/10527. PMID: 30093371; PMCID: PMC6107736. Accessed Aug 22/22: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30093371/