Truth: We’re all guilty of sneaking a peek at our tracker a few too many times a day in hopes hitting those coveted 10,000 steps. But will those paces actually take down the number on the scale?
The answer might surprise you: “I think if you use step counting as a means to lose weight, you're going to gain weight,” says Charlie Seltzer, M.D., a weight-loss specialist based in Philadelphia. “Step counts are good goals to have, they just shouldn't be related to weight loss.”
*Cue the gasps*
Why Walking It Out Doesn’t Work
Here's Seltzer's theory: Since keeping track of your steps doesn't really gauge how many calories you're burning, you might think you're expending more energy than you are. Then, when you eat, you're likely to overdo it because you think you've got more room in your calorie budget.
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Of course, activity can definitely contribute to weight loss, says Matt Delaney, C.S.C.S., a Tier 4 trainer at Equinox in New York City. As he puts it, though: “You can’t out-step a bad diet.”
Besides that whole calories in vs calories out issue, reaching 10,000 steps by walking isn't an intense enough workout to make a dent in your weight-loss goals, says Delaney. “For a small number of people, walking might provide enough of a stimulus to start the weight loss process,” he says. “But, for most of us, it's not powerful enough to cause any significant changes to our waistlines.” (Start your weight-loss journey with Women's Health's Body Clock Diet!)
What to Track Instead
If you want to lose lbs, focus on what you eat. Though everyone is different, you need to figure out how many calories you should be eating per day to lose one to two pounds per week, says Seltzer. This number is mostly dependent on your age, weight, and activity level.
Check out this formula to help you find your number. (Keep in mind that you should never go below 1,200 calories, or the minimum amount you need to function).
Then, exercise in whatever way works for you. “Asking someone who works for eight or more hours a day to walk 10,000 steps is setting them up for failure,” says Delaney. “A focused training program would provide much greater benefits than walking, in less time.”
Because, hey, if you can crush a 45-minute Kettlebell workout, you’ll burn more calories than a half-day worth of steps, he says.