Health

Fitbit’s 10,000 steps WON’T kill you, but it’s still wrong

By Oliver Smith 21 February 2017
Summary

Don't blame fitness tracking apps, they're not the problem.

Do you get your 5 a day? Walk 10,000 steps? Do 30 minutes of exercise?

This morning the headlines are screaming that fitness tracking apps are “doing more harm than good” by recommending we walk 10,000 steps.

The logic, courtesy of Dr Greg Hager of Johns Hopkins University in the US, is that 10,000 is an arbitrary number picked in Japan in the 1960s.

Hager offers an ominous warning that for the ill, elderly or simply those with longer legs could “cause harm or damage”.

All those pensioners desperately trying to reach their 10,000 step goals should probably ease up.

The reality is that all of these mantras of traditional health, whether that’s 5 a day, 10,000 steps or 30 minutes of exercise a day, all are unfit for purpose.

Modern wellbeing

One-size-fits-all is over. Gone are the days where a Government or health authority could launch a national campaign to encourage everyone to do the same thing.

Instead, as fitness trackers have proved, today we’re living in a colourful world full of health data, and the future of health will be tailored to you.

Whether that’s 23andMe helping you to unpick your DNA, Thriva analysing your blood work, VITL making sense of your nutrition or Babylon putting all this data into its growing artificial intelligence.

The future of wellbeing is medicine personalised to you, diagnoses based on thousands of data points, and yes, step goals specific to your own body shape, age, diet and state of health.

Picking arbitrary health targets for millions of people is coming to an end but, given the average Brit only walks 4,000 steps, for now 10,000 steps is the best goal we’ve got.