Have you heard of FitBit, Nike FuelBand, or a "personal activity tracker?" A personal activity tracker is a highly evolved version of a pedometer. It counts how many steps an individual takes, tallies the miles they've traveled, and calculates the calories they've burned. Some can even sync with heart monitors, bathroom scales, and other wellness programs to give more detailed overview of what's going on with an individual's health. Trackers feed data into a companion website or mobile app, giving the individual new insight into the habits that make up their lifestyle. Many of these manufacturers offer corporate programs to supply the devices to employees.
The baseline goal of a personal activity tracker, much like a basic pedometer, is to get an individual to take 10,000 steps a day. So does 10,000 steps a day make a healthy individual?
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), if total number of steps per day is:
- Under 5000, the individual is considered sedentary.
- Between 5,000 - 7,499 "low active."
- Between 7,500 - 9,999 indicates some exercise or walking and would be considered "somewhat active."
- More than 10,000 steps indicates an "active" individual.
- More than 12,500 steps/day would classify as being "highly active".
The CDC suggests that, in general, to improve health a person should add 2000-3000 more steps to their day than what get from their general activities.
In order to actually increase daily steps, an individual first needs to track their steps, and the features of personal activity trackers are appleaing. A FitBit Zip, for example, simply clips on to clothing and tracks the wearer's movement throughout the day. Data from the unit syncs via WiFi to their FitBit account once the FitBit is within 20 feet of its USB companion unit. For corporate wellness programs, this can be the individual's workstation, making the activity seamless to their workday.
The typical U.S. office worker, who sits several hours a day for their job, accumulates about 3,500-5,000 steps during the course of their day. This puts most U.S. workers in the sedentary range. Would increasing to 10,000 steps a day help an employee's overall health? Yes. Would it make them "healthy?" Like most health issues, it's not as simple as that.
Activity level is just one factor in overall health and personal activity trackers acknowledge this. FitBit makes itself compatible with other applications. More comprehensive health and wellness programs like Novu make their platforms compatible with the data from personal activity trackers. It is simply one tool in a toolbox trying to help build a healthier person.
The increased popularity of personal activity trackers in company wellness programs has put a spotlight on the 10,000 steps a day concept, but it is not a magic number. 10,000 steps a day general guideline. Personal activity trackers, and the goal of 10,000 steps a day, is just a tool to help employees take a step in the right direction.