Don’t let these 10 common step tracking mistakes keep you from getting the most health benefits from your walking routine. Counting your steps is the first step to ensure you’re hitting your daily recommended activity level, but simply tracking your steps only gets you so far. If your goal is to lose weight, relieve stress, or feel great then you need to make step counting a positive, motivational tool.
Become an advanced walker by not trying to make up for missed steps and 9 other step tracking mistakes that even experienced step trackers can make.
Make step tracking work for you
Tracking your daily steps is one of the best ways to get more active, stay healthy and make progress on a number of health goals. To really get the most out of step tracking, you’ll need to avoid some common step counting mistakes. Let’s be clear: just tracking steps by itself is going to be a win in the health department. Counting the right way, and having some perspective on the results will keep you feeling positive, determined, and motivated to keep walking day after day.
1. Not checking your steps over time
Checking your steps at the end of the day to see if you’ve hit your goal is all you need to do, right? Not exactly! It’s important to periodically check your long-term trends over weeks and even months to see how your steps are progressing. If you’re easily able to hit your current step goal after many weeks, try increasing it just a bit. Even as few as 200 or 500 steps (or 5 minutes of walking) will add up over time.
When you’re working towards a new step goal, seeing your progress over time can be the best motivation to keep on walking. If your steps have dropped off slightly over time, think back to see if you’ve made changes to your routine that could account for the drop off. Make sure that you’re checking your longer term step trends at least once per week so you can evaluate if you need to make changes to your routine.
2. Worrying too much about day-to-day results
Missing your step goal can be frustrating, but everyone has days where your step count drops. You might have a difficult project at work, or you might be feeling sore or hurt that day. Sometimes there’s no special reason, you just didn’t get active. Every single walker has days like this, so don’t let yourself get down if you’ve ended a streak. What’s more important is your long term activity over time – not any one day’s specific results.
When you do miss your goal (and it will happen eventually), encourage yourself by looking at your weekly or monthly results. Just get back out there and walk the next day and you’ll be perfectly fine! This also applies for very high step days as well! While it is ok to pat yourself on the back for having a huge step day, it’s more important to maintain your walking over time. Don’t try to dramatically increase your step goal over one good day.
3. Trying to “make up” for missed steps
When you miss your step goal, you may feel like you should “make up” those steps by walking more the next day. While this sounds great, in practice trying to make up steps is usually a bad idea that can lead to soreness, injury, or burnout. If you’ve set a reasonable step goal, you’ve already identified the amount of steps and walking that your body can handle, while keeping walking fun and interesting. If you could easily add a few thousand extra steps per day, you’d probably have already increased your goal already.
If you miss your goal, you’re usually better off simply getting back to your regular walking routine. This prevent whipsawing back and forth between low step days and high step days, which can be tough on your body. Trying to “make up” your steps will also leave you feeling pressured to force in walking, which makes walking less fun. Walking a few thousand extra steps one time may not be a big deal, but consistently going way over your step goal is a recipe for knee pain, a sore back, or other walking injuries. You’ll end up missing more steps over the long term than you make up that one day.
4. Forgetting that intensity counts too
While focusing on getting more steps is usually the way to go, the intensity level of your walking makes a big difference. If you’re doing intense fitness walking, you’ll be burning more calories than regular leisurely walking. Walking faster usually means you’re taking more steps, but walking on an incline or walking stairs, for instance, are intense but don’t add more steps in any given time.
If you can’t find the time to get more steps, getting intense will get you healthier, even if it’s not always reflected in your step count. Doing other fitness activities, like strength training or yoga, would burn calories and get you fitter but wouldn’t register as steps. The key is getting active and moving and getting fitter, not necessarily the raw number on your phone screen. Do keep in mind that it’s easy to overestimate the calories you’re burning through random activities. Just because you did a yoga session doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to grab an extra milkshake.
5. Comparing yourself too much to others
Walking and fitness is really a competition against yourself to see how fit you can get. While it can be fun to compete in challenges and try to beat your friends, your fitness level, health condition, and life situation will always be different. People with active jobs, like restaurant wait staff or construction workers, will have more steps than average when compared with office workers. A 20-something with no health conditions will simply have an easier time getting 10,000 steps per day (or more) than a senior dealing with knee issues.
Focusing too much on the challenge can be problematic even if you’re comparing yourself to similar people. If you’re currently walking 5,000 steps and you can get that up to 7,000 steps, that’s a huge win! Just because a friend is getting 10,000 doesn’t mean you didn’t significantly improve your health. By focusing on your progress, you can maintain motivation and stay positive about your walking!
6. Putting numbers over outcomes
Your step count is really just a numerical way to track your activity and fitness level. The goal shouldn’t be to get a “high score” in terms of numbers, but to get healthier and feel great! If you’re feeling great and you realize you’re more active than ever, you should be proud of your accomplishments no matter what your actual step number is. If you’re hitting huge step numbers, but you’re constantly sore, tired, and anxious about how you’re going to maintain your step count then you’re probably walking too many miles. You don’t want to ignore the step number, but otherwise you wont know how active you’re really getting, but don’t get too focused on it either!
7. Not looking beyond walking for your health
Walking is one of the best ways to get healthy and lose weight, but it’s not the only way and it works better when combined with other activities! Most health organizations recommend doing strength training at least twice a week to build and maintain muscle mass and get a full-body workout. Activities like yoga and pilates build strength and flexibility to avoid injuries, and you can do them in your living room. Work in these workouts and you’ll find yourself walking longer and faster than you thought you could.
When looking to lose weight, you should strongly consider pairing walking with eating a bit healthier for best results. It’s simply easier to eat calories than it is to walk them off, and no amount of walking can outdo really poor eating habits. Start by making the easy changes to eliminate empty calories and keep walking and you’ll be surprised at your results!
8. Never changing your step goals
As your fitness level, life situation and health status changes, your step goal should change as well. As you get more and more fit from walking, it’s simply easier to get more steps. You can walk faster and keep walking longer, so you should be able to increase your step goal over time. If you do suffer an injury or come down with a chronic health condition, however, it’s important to adjust your goals to realistic numbers. You can still get amazing benefits from small amounts of walking, so you’re better off aiming for a goal you can hit rather than stubbornly sticking to a goal that will endanger your health to achieve. If you change your job or move or have some other life change, your walking habits will inevitably change as well. It’s often a good idea to reduce your step goal, at least temporarily, and then work your way back up.
9. Going too far, too fast
Trying to do too many steps can often be just as problematic as taking too few steps. Just because you have one amazing step day or you see a friend with a high step count doesn’t meant that you should dramatically increase your step count. The most common result of large increases in activity is soreness or injury, because your body simply isn’t used to the stress of that much walking. It often takes a few days for the soreness to build up, so you may think you’re fine until you wake up and your back is incredibly sore!
Trying to walk too much may simply not be much fun. If you’re feeling like you need to force yourself to walk, or constantly checking your step number all day long, you’re going to lose motivation to walk over time. That’s why it’s better to gradually increase your step count rather than push yourself for a goal that’s out of reach.
10. Setting goals that are too ambitions (or not ambitious enough)
A mistake that’s related to going too far, too fast is setting a step goal that’s either way too high or not challenging enough. While 10,000 steps per day is a great goal for many people, it may be too high if you’re just starting out walking. If you dig in your feet and stick with a goal that’s too high for you, you’ll lose motivation to walk or you’ll hurt yourself trying to hit it. Don’t be afraid to lower your goal, at least initially and increase it again over time.
Similarly, don’t set your step goal so low that you’re never challenged to walk. It can be tempting to set a goal that’s easy to hit just to feel like you’ve hit your goal, but you should eventually try adding small increases and see if you can walk just a bit more. This doesn’t only apply to walkers with low step counts! If you frequently find yourself well over 10,000 steps per day, your 10,000 step goal might be too low for you!
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