As the UK population suffers from increasing Stockholm Syndrome, data released by various sources place it in second place, behind Portugal, in the EU obesity league tables. With around 28% of its population obese, type 2 diabetes is soaring and 15 months’ of lockdown has considerably worsened the UK’s health.
The UK, however, is not alone. Earlier this month, the European Parliament called for the better treatment and management of obesity as average obesity levels in the EU have risen by 161% since 1975.
Put simply, people need to move more. It is recommended that you complete a minimum of 10,000 steps a day, but that is actually harder than you may think.
Or maybe not. Perhaps you have some sort of pedometer, or a phone, that measures your daily footsteps and you have already managed to hit your daily target regularly. In 2018, 45 million smartwatches were sold, as well as 1.43 million smartphones..
We are, obviously, in the middle of an obesity crisis, yet we are living longer, meaning that those of us who don’t die from fast food, will live with restricted mobility. Whatever the facts, everyone agrees that anything that gets us moving is a good thing. And big companies are getting into the healthcare market; regulators aside, Google has just bought Fitbit for $2.1bn.
But why is 10,000 steps the magic number?
Well, it isn’t really. Apparently, in the 1960s, a Japanese firm started selling pedometers called ‘manpo-kei’, which translates as ‘10,000-step meter’. Studies later showed that people who take 10,000 steps daily have lower blood pressure than those who don’t. And the number stuck.
Measuring your steps is quite a blunt instrument, but it can be fun.
Lots of studies have looked at the comparative health benefits of 5k to 10k steps and determined that, the higher, the better, and Harvard Medical School studied 16,000 women in their 70s, comparing the number of steps they took each day to their likelihood of dying, from any causes.
They followed the women up, four and a bit years later, and 504 had died. Of the survivors, the average number of steps was 5,500 and incremental gains in steps were important. Women who had taken more than 4,000 steps a day were significantly more likely to still be alive than those who did 2,700. A small difference seemed to make a significant difference to longevity.
Interestingly, the more steps the better held true only up to 7,500 steps, after which the benefits plateaued. Any more than 7,500 made no difference to life expectancy.
The number of steps someone should aim for is interesting psychologically. The 10,000 target does seem quite a high goal to get to every day and failing to do so might discourage you. But only if you are weak-willed.
Duke University found that people who tracked their steps walked further and, ultimately that is the important thing, whatever target you set yourself. But Duke also found that those who tracked their walking enjoyed it less, saying it felt like work.
Counting steps might also encourage ftter, more active people to stop once they have reached their 10k target.
The key then, is to set your own goal, probably start at 10k and experiment to see what works for you.
I was interested in the idea of seeing how much I walked on an average day and bought a Huawei smartwatch to go with my Huawei phone.
However, whenever I try to install an app on my Huawei phone, ‘This app is not yet available in the current region’ appears, so it was next to useless if I wanted to link the watch to Huawei’s fitness tracker. Bodes well for our 5G network.
So I decided to look into the market and see if there was anything out there that would fit my criteria of a watch that looked like a watch and functioned as a fitness tracker and I found it in the form of the Withings Steel HR Sport.
This is a hybrid smartwatch which features heart rate monitoring, multi-sport tracking and a sleep tracker. Best of all, it is water resistant, so you can swim with it.
I think it looks great and you can have hours of fun analysing your daily activity, heart rate and sleep depth. I set the daily target to 10,000 steps and have been charmed by it ever since. Actually, forget the fact you can swim in it, the best thing is that the battery lasts for over a month and it takes less than an hour to charge fully.
Anyway; I was interested to see how much I walked on an average day without really trying.
Bear in mind 10,000 steps works out at about just under 10km, which is quite a lot. On an average day I would walk around 7,000 steps, which is basically the same as those 70-something women, or a non-stop walk for over an hour. Last week I reached 10,000 on four occasions and was weirdly pleased, twice walking around my flat just before bed to tip myself over the line.
In fact, sleep trackers can have strange effects on people and they become obsessed by the ‘quantified self’. Martin Lewis is well-known as the Money Saving Expert and he certainly became obsessed with his fitness tracker, saying; “I’ve never done less than 10,000 steps in any day for the last three years, but to be honest, if I do just 10,000 steps, I’m never happy. My average is nearer 25,000. It’s an obsession.”
That’s madness; in fact I think tracking your steps is becoming a sport for people who don’t like sport.
Vitality, a life insurer, gives discounted Apple watches to members and rewards them if they stay active and last year found that people on the scheme increased their activity by about 34%.
I’d actually be surprised if the average office worker managed anywhere near 10,000 a day during the week; get in the car, get on the train and a short walk to the office, where you sit down all day, eat and take little steps around the workspace and out for lunch. No wonder obesity is rife, so anything that increases your daily steps has to be a good thing, especially if it looks good as well.
Walking should be fun, not yet another chore and a watch makes it interesting, checking your steps at the end of the day to see how you have done.
Use your phone for sending texts and use your watch to keep an eye on your steps.
This is the natural way of things.