You may wonder how many steps a day you’ll need to lose weight. Do you need 10,000 steps? It depends on a lot of factors. These tips and tools will help you tackle the physical self-care you’ll need on your weight-loss journey. Remember, small changes over time produce the best results.
How Many Steps a Day Should I Take?
About 16 years ago I read a magazine article touting research that by walking 10,000 steps a day, a person would lose five pounds a year. It sounded great, so I bought my first pedometer. I kept it clipped to my belt (my students mistook it for a pager) and made sure I took at least 10,000 steps a day.
Nothing happened. I felt better, but the needle on the scale refused to budge. I also noticed that I hadn’t increased my activity. Evidently, I already took about 10,000 steps a day. This valuable lesson taught me the importance of experimenting and finding out what worked best for ME. Most likely the research study involved previously sedentary people.
How many steps a day matters (we want to avoid a sedentary lifestyle), but the quality of steps matters, too. For example, I felt my 10,000 steps a day involved very little cardio exercise. But purchasing a heart-rate chest strap would provide the only definitive answer.
You guessed it. I purchased a chest strap heart-rate monitor and a watch that read the results and chimed when I fell below the cardio level. This worked better. I started running again.
But you don’t need high-tech gadgets to figure out your target heart rate, though. You can figure out your target heart rates for cardio exercise the old-school way with a calculator, a stopwatch, and your fingers.
Figuring Out Your Target Heart Rate
You’ll need to learn how to take your pulse the old-school way, and then grab a calculator and piece of paper to figure out your own personal target heart rate zone. Whatever you do, don’t rely on those charts found on fitness machines. According to those, I am either dead or in cardiac arrest. Here’s the formula for calculating your heart rate reserve (HHR) (and my results):
- Start with 220, and subtract your age (220-53=167).
- Subtract your resting heart rate to discover your HHR (heart rate reserve) (my resting heart rate is 48, so 167-48=119).
- Multiply your HHR by 70% and add your resting heart rate to the answer (119 X .7+48=131). This number represents the low end of your vigorous cardio efforts.
- Multiple your HHR by 85% and add your resting heart rate to the answer (119 X .85 +48=149). This number represents the high end of your vigorous cardio efforts.
While this method works, you will still need to tinker with the numbers based on how YOU feel. For example, my heart often reaches 170-177 when I sprint during my morning runs. When I run for distance, my average heart rate hovers around 160 (my Apple Watch keeps track of this stuff for me). A slow jog will elevate my heart to 131—maybe.
A slow jog doesn’t make me feel out of breath, nor does a long, steady run. Vigorous exercise should make a gal feel winded occasionally. Thus, I have learned to incorporate sprints into my workouts, even if I don’t enjoy them.
Therefore, to answer the question of how many steps a day does a person need? think quality, not quantity. Of course, my competitive nature compels me to try for 10,000 steps a day, regardless of their quality.
How do I Know if I’ve Taken 10,000 Steps?
Since I first started tracking my 10,000 steps a day, I’ve gone through a dozen or so methods of keeping track of my exercise. After I lost my first three belt-clip pedometers, I broke down and purchased a more expensive one that had a lanyard I could attach to my belt loop as a backup to the clip. This served me for years.
The heart-rate chest strap and watch did a great job of making sure I worked out vigorously enough, but I didn’t wear it all day long. They get sweaty, smelly, and uncomfortable (ewww), so I kept my pedometer on.
Then FitBit came out with a fitness tracker that included a heart rate monitor about five years ago. I drove 90 miles to the nearest REI store and purchased one the day they came out. Finally, everything I wanted in a fitness tracking system all in one handy watch.
I downloaded the FitBit app for my iPhone, found friends who had FitBits, and enjoyed the weekday and weekend challenges. The FitBit app also allows users to cheer for each other, so I routinely cheered for my FitBit friends.
I also enjoyed the badges I earned by climbing flights of stairs, meeting distance per day goals, and friendly competitions. Hey, who wouldn’t enjoy winning a Blue Suede Shoes Badge for taking 60,000 steps in one day? Or a Pole to Pole badge for traveling 12,430 miles in the six years I had a FitBit?
The FitBit HR died after about two years, and I replaced it with the FitBit Blaze. I enjoyed the larger, color screen (my ancient eyes couldn’t read the numbers on the FitBit HR). I continued to enjoy the FitBit community and the other FitBit app features (water consumption, sleep tracking, female health, and exercise tracking).
Apple Watch vs. FitBit Blaze
This summer, my FitBit Blaze started fritzing out on me. The screen flashed constantly and I thought I’d go batty. So, I invested in an Apple Watch—giving myself the excuse that it was waterproof (the Blaze isn’t). I figured that anything produced by Apple would function in a superior manner.
The jury is still out on that one. Yes, the Apple Watch can withstand swimming in cold mountain streams and getting dunked in the dishwater. But I feel that its heart-rate monitor system lacks accuracy. It will go for long stretches of time (up to 27 minutes during my waking hours) between taking my pulse measurements.
The FitBit, on the other hand, has a constant heart rate readout. According to my Apple W
The functionality doesn’t work as seamlessly, either. For example, I could find all of my information and stats on the FitBit app, as well as control my fitness tracker and Aria scale.
With the Apple Watch I have to use four apps to do the same thing (Apple Watch app, Activity app, Health app, and an app that sends my scale data to the Health app). The Health app on the iPhone acts as command center for a host of other apps (both paid and free) that you can enter information into and then that info will get filed on the Health app.
The Apple Watch does integrate well with my favorite running apps, though. I’ve used and enjoyed Nike Run Club, C25K (Couch to 5K), and Running.
Old-School Fitness Tracker Options
Many people don’t realize that their smart phone keeps track of their steps (but only if you have it with you, of course). The Health app on iPhones and the Google Fit app on Android phones will keep track of how many steps you take each day, too.
Don’t feel you have to own a
First, measure your waist circumference. According to WebMd, a woman’s waist should measure less than 35 inches. A man’s waist should measure less than 40 inches. So if your old-school measurement falls outside those guidelines, you’ll want to consider taking control of your health in a proactive way.
Scales also give us valuable feedback about our overall health. When I know I’ve made unhealthy choices for a long time, I avoid the scales. I already know they’ll deliver bad news.
When I started my keto diet journey in May, I used a tape measure to measure seven areas on my body, pencil and paper (to track measurements), and a body-fat measuring scale. I’ve tracked my progress and know that I’ve lost 17.5 inches overall and have lost 20 lbs. More importantly, I’ve gone from having 33% body fat with a BMI of 24.6 to having 22% body fat with a BMI of 21.6.
Even though those first measurements and step onto the scales pained me, without a baseline, I knew I couldn’t chart progress. And keeping track of progress helps a person persist in attaining goals.Keeping track of progress helps a person persist in attaining goals. #weightloss #health #selfcare Click To Tweet
The Best Fitness Tracker for Weight Loss
I didn’t start off by saying I wanted to lose 20 lbs. Instead, I set small, attainable goals. “Lose five pounds” sounds doable, whereas, “Lose 20 pounds before my high school reunion” sounds like a headline from the National Enquirer. “Feel comfortable in my pants,” sounds better than “Lose an inch off my waist.” “Take 500 more steps tomorrow than I did today,” sounds better than “Get in 10,000 steps a day.”
Remember, weight loss starts in our heads. Sure, fitness trackers can help, but only if you use them.
The best fitness tracker is one you’ll use to improve your health. Some of my friends purchased a pedometer around the same time I bought my first one. But they never wore it. Coworkers have purchased FitBits that remain on their chargers.
Having a fitness tracker won’t make you lose weight (well, your wallet will feel lighter). A fitness tracker can help you if geeking out on numbers and having competitions with yourself or friends gives you motivation.
Some people need a community that will keep them accountable in tangible ways (coaching, phone calls, texts, and other forms of encouragement). Others do just fine with a fitness tracker and some friendly competition. Still others require a combination of accountability.
Don’t laugh, but I stayed up past my bedtime last night marching in place. I did it so I could see three sparkly rings close on my Apple Watch, indicating that I’d met my fitness goals for the day.
Before you invest hundreds of dollars in a fitness tracker and worry about how many steps a day you’ll need to lose weight, consider your achievement style. Maybe you need a community; maybe you need a fitness tracker. Perhaps your phone and an accountability partner will serve you just as well.
The Bottom Line?
Get to know yourself and what works best for you. One size doesn’t really fit all. You need to experiment with what motivates you, what encourages you, and what works for you. Your goal, after all, isn’t just quick weight loss.
Taking care of ourselves physically involves a lifetime of sustainable healthy habits. And if we get off course occasionally, the world won’t end. We simply reset our compass and get back on course.Don't miss these valuable resources for your weight loss journey. #weightloss #healthyweight #exercise #selfcare Click To Tweet
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