One of the current health fads involves monitoring activity levels. For example, various watches and phones will monitor how many steps we take each day or remind us to not sit for prolonged periods. While this may be a beneficial starting point, we should be concerned that people will become complacent with a rather low level of activity and exercise.
The problem with simply monitoring steps is that it doesn't necessarily encourage you to do anything extra for your health. I can't tell you how many people (not just patients) I talk to that when exercise comes up they say "oh I get my 10,000 steps every day." Many people have that AND MORE in just a normal day walking from place to place. Remember, a normal day in this civilization is still more sedentary than for which the human body is designed. Measuring steps is a nice marker to make sure you do a minimum, but we should encourage more active lifestyles.
Another problem with the pedometer-type or general activity measurements is that they typically don't recognize calorie expenditure for other activities. For example, some watches will remind people to get up every hour after sitting still. I have heard of people running a marathon then taking a seat and the watch was reminding them to "get up and exercise!" These same devices may hold walking at a higher value compared to some high intensity-interval training (HIIT), resistance training, stationary cardio, and more.
With the benefits of various types of exercise, such as resistance training for bone health and HIIT for cardiovascular health, we should be careful of relying on our smart phones and watches to dictate our exercise and "fitness" levels. While walking can be important for our health, it is essential that we educate our clients on performing various styles of exercise and not relying on walking a minimum number of steps.
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