Monday, June 30, 2014

The Pros and Cons of a Fitbit or Other Step Counter

If you have been reading this blog (or follow me on Instagram) for a while, you know that I love my Fitbit Zip . It has motivated me to walk more, and I estimate that I now walk at least 3,000 to 5,000 steps more each day than before I got it (it’s really difficult for me to know exactly how much more I walk as I pretty much changed how much I walk the day I got it…). Before my Fitbit, I would have told you that there was no way for me to walk that much more. But tracking my steps and seeing how active (or inactive!) I am, really gets me moving. And walking more is not only good for my body but especially for my mind.

Here are some photos from recent hikes and walks:

Walk 01Walk 02Walk 03Walk 04Walk 05Walk 06

My Fitbit certainly makes me walk more. Since I check my Fitbit throughout the day, I get instant feedback on how much I’ve been walking. Over the past 1.5 years, I have found numerous ways to sneak in steps:
  • 10 minutes walking equals approximately 1,000 steps; to reach the daily recommended 10,000 steps, all you have to do is go for ten 10-minute walks. It’s a doable way to get those steps! I try to go for a short walk after each class I teach, and I also take a walking break every hour when I prep and correct papers.
  • Every minute counts! I used to think it wasn’t worth it to go for a walk unless I had at least half an hour. Now I get out of the house for frequent short walks: 20, 10, or even 5 minute mini walks.
  • Looking at my Fitbit reminds me to get up and walk around at least once per hour.
  • I now often walk when I am on the phone, an easy way to get steps…
While there are many pros of using a step counter, there are also some cons. The default daily step goal for the Fitbit is 10,000 steps. For most people that’s close to 5 miles (how many miles you walk when you take 10,000 steps depends on your stride length; usually, the taller your are and the longer your legs are, the longer your stride length).

10,000 steps is a lot, especially for someone who isn’t used to walking a lot. If you have an office job and don’t go for a long walk, it’s likely you are not anywhere near 10,000 steps on most days. It can be overwhelming to try to reach that goal. I think a better goal would be to increase your daily steps by maybe 1,000 or 2,000 steps and make that your goal for a week or two. Then you can increase your goal again, if you like.

The Fitbit lets you be friends with other Fitbit users. This can be very motivating, but it can also make you too competitive. I know I can’t compete with my long distance running friends, but it can still be frustrating when they log over 20,000 steps day after day after day… It’s important to know when to stop being competitive! 

The Fitbit only keeps track of the steps you take and not other activities. I often take barre classes and challenging yoga classes. However, since I take hardly any steps during these classes, it can look like I was just sitting on my behind all day… The same is true for weight lifting, swimming, etc. It’s very frustrating when I come home from a challenging barre class and my legs feel like jello, go for a 30-minute walk, and have only 3,000 to 4,000 steps to show for.

Finally, while I think it’s a good idea to get at least 10,000 steps daily on average, I think it’s okay (and even necessary) to have a low step day once in a while and rest. If you go for a 45 minute walk and don’t move much the rest of the day, you’ll like end up only getting between 5,000 to 6,000 steps. But I think that’s okay. Don’t let your Fitbit may make you feel “bad” about it! 

Overall, I would definitely recommend getting a step counter. We all have Fitbit Zips, and it has been a great tool to motivate us to walk more. Even the older kid, who was skeptical and told me he “didn’t have time to walk,” has come around and is walking now a lot more. But at the same time, it’s important to not take it too far and become obsessed with it. It’s supposed to be a tool to help us be more active, not more stressed!

Questions: Do you keep track of how much you walk? Why or why not?

Be well,


  1. What a great review!!! I always enjoy your IG pics!!! :) I don't have any gadget & never have but I would be curious although the fitbit does not capture all my weight stuff. :)

    1. Thanks, Jody! And, yes, the fitbit would not capture all your weight workouts... But it's still interesting to see how much you do/don't walk/run in a day... :)

  2. I used to wear a pedometer - and at first it was awesome, but then it started to control my life, and thus I had to take it off - I got to a point where I would be depressed if I got anything less than 15,000 steps a day! YIKES!

    1. Yes, I can totally see that happening for some! It's so important to know yourself... :)

  3. I love the Fitbit too but I kind of disagree that 10,000 steps is too much. It is recommended by health organizations all over the world. If you have a desk job (like me) you should work on getting your steps in in a different way. That said: if I don't run or do a walk of 30 minutes or more on a workday it's hard for me to get those steps in too. Even though I walk to co workers for questions instead of emailing. So my goal is to walk at least 30 minutes a day every day.

    As for the competition: I'm not sensitive for that. I hardly look at the top ranks of my fitbit friends.

    1. Yes, I agree that 10,000 is the recommended number of daily steps, and most people should strive for that number. However, I also think it's important to not beat yourself up over a number. If you only walk 5,000 steps, getting 7,000 is an improvement, and often little adjustments work better in the long term. Once you are comfortable with 7,000, you can increase it to 8,000 or 9,000, etc. Also, the pedometer doesn't count other forms of exercise, like swimming for example. You could swim for an hour a day, which I'm sure would be equivalent to quite a few steps when it comes to your health, but be way short of the 10,000 steps...

  4. Can't wait to get my Fitbit back!

  5. Great post and tips Andrea! As you know, I love my FitBit too, although my steps were a little low the past few days. Also try about one of the cons being that other activities aren't counted. My kids and I went for a bike ride the other day so I tried to swing my arms whenever I could to get some step credit in :-)

    1. Yes, I agree that other activities not being counted can be a big con. I usually take an interval barre class on Sunday mornings with tons of high intensity cardio intervals and lots of movement (that doesn't count as steps) during the "cool down phases,", yet I get less than 1,000 steps per class... It definitely doesn't show the whole picture...

      I love that you moved your arms a lot to get at least some credit for your bike ride! :)