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Why is tracking steps a thing?

DevilsFan1DevilsFan1 Member, Premium Posts: 340 Member Member, Premium Posts: 340 Member
I honestly don't get it. Why are people tracking how much they walk around during the day doing normal activities? I suppose if you're always sitting that it could be a motivator to get up and move, but when I see people complain that their Fitbit isn't recording the steps they're taking when grocery shopping I am legitimately puzzled.

To add to that, it seems that many people who track steps think that gives them the license to eat back whatever calories their tracker says they are burning. Walking around doing things you normally do isn't really exercise that is worth tracking.

Then again, maybe I'm the crazy one.
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  • durhammfpdurhammfp Member Posts: 368 Member Member Posts: 368 Member
    I use my steps tracker to evaluate how much activity I've done. It helps me set my activity level correctly in the guided setup, or gives me a good baseline to figure out if I'm adding back an appropriate number of activity calories.

    Note that MFP's system is designed for you to add back your exercise calories because it uses the NEAT method, NOT the TDEE method. NEAT methodology is your calories burned just staying alive + daily activity expenditure. TDEE is NEAT + purposeful exercise.

    Since MFP uses the NEAT method, it is not using a purposeful exercise factor in its equations. The only activity setting it accounts for is the day to day activity setting you choose. It's hard to get this right sometimes because the descriptors given are not exactly accurate, and many people will choose sedentary when they are actually lightly active, or will choose active when they aren't. There's been a good baseline given for converting daily living step count into MFP activity levels:

    Sedentary = less than 5000
    Low activity = 5000-7499
    Somewhat active = 7500-9999
    Active = more than 10000
    Highly active = more than 12500

    from https://community.myfitnesspal.com/en/discussion/10727064/steps-activity-level#latest

    I have a desk job and therefore spend most days a week sitting. My step counter will show that without purposeful exercise, I get around 2,000-3,000 steps a day. So I set my MFP activity level to sedentary when I use the guided setup. right now I'm shooting for 1.5 lbs/wk loss rate. Then when I do get my purposeful walks or high intensive activities in like push mowing my grass, I use the MFP entry for that activity and count around 75% of the time spent to get a calorie addition to my daily totals.

    This is how MFP is designed to work. I like this because I don't steadily get the same activity every day; some days, I don't get anything added to my activity for the day; other days, I'm super busy and can get 18,000 steps. I prefer to use my baseline level and add back my activity calories as MFP is designed to do. This is also why MFP's deficit goal will be lower than other deficits calculated by other websites - it depends on which method that website is using - you'll find that many use the TDEE method.

    The TDEE method is designed to give you one number to strive for every day and not to very like hte NEAT will, so with the TDEE method, you account for EVERY activity you do during your waking hours and pick an activity level from that to get your deficit. Then you strive to be at that activity level every day or most days out of a week, but you don't add anything back because you've already accounted for it when you picked your activity level.

    You can mimic the TDEE method in MFP if you prefer to use it by just setting your activity level to reflect your entire day's activity.


    I know that MFP has somewhere around 250-350 calorie separate for my goals and stats between each of the categories. By using my step counter and the estimation above, I can figure if I'm eating back enough exercise calories or too many. By MFP standards, I should be eating around 2000 calories for an active range of 10,000 - 13,000 calories, which is around 600 calories over my sedentary deficit. So on days where I get over 10,000 steps, I check to see that the amount of exercise calories I add back is in the neighborhood of 600 calories. My step is a very helpful tool in establishing my activity for the day.


    Step counters and counting steps is a useful tool and strategy in the tool box of things people can try to help them successfully lose weight and keep it of, just like various diet types, intermittent fasting, etc. Some people benefit from some tools better than others, and for some people some of the tools don't work while others will. Its best to have a variety of tools to choose from to be able to custom fit the best strategy to your personal lifestyle.

    And just because one particular tool doesn't work for one person, doesn't mean that tool is useless or people who use it are being silly; it just means it doesn't work for that one person who needs to try a different tool to find what will work for them.

    ^^^ Pretty much all this for me too. Setting MFP on "sedentary" and using my pedometer to calculate calories burned in excess of the sedentary setting, those are exactly the two tools I used to lose 47 pounds. Easy peasy. Now that I'm running a lot, instead of just walking, I'm having to figure out how to calculate my energy expenditure a little more precisely. But for a long time MFP+pedometer was the ticket for me.
  • FuzzipegFuzzipeg Member Posts: 1,992 Member Member Posts: 1,992 Member
    There was a study reported in The New Scientist back in May or June, I think. The article referred to the distance waked by Glaswegian Postal Delivery workers who on average walk 18000 steps in a delivery round. Anthropologist referred to in this article considered this to be in the range of steps equating to the distance on average our distant ancestors would walk in their daily round of gathering and hunting.
  • NovusDiesNovusDies Member, Premium Posts: 8,320 Member Member, Premium Posts: 8,320 Member
    I only recently started looking at the step counter in my phone. It’s an eye opener. There were many weeks that I averaged only about 5-6000 steps per day before. I also noticed it was declining for some reason. The data was in my phone but I just never paid attention!
    I’m trying to add more activity without an extra “workout”. I was considering doing multiple workouts per day but my normal workout takes a good amount of recovery. So, I’m trying to increase my average total daily steps above 10000 for the small extra calorie burn and mental health.
    I don’t think my body cares if I got the steps from mowing the lawn or from walking the trails in a local park. Also, I don’t think it matters if i get 15000 steps one day and 5000 the next- I’m just using it as a way to check non workout activity.
    The philosophy: any movement=good movement.

    I am sure my body knows the difference but I do not think it pushes the average calorie that far, at least for me. To mow my entire yard is about 15,200 steps. I seldom push mow the entire thing though because I have a rider and the times I have done it felt like I was overdoing it the next day. I always push mow the front at around 5,500 steps and the portion I do of the backyard before I get the big mower out is about the same. The backyard is harder work because I am dealing with an incline. However, both account for a small percent of my weekly steps. Combined they would be about 7 percent of my week so only 3.5 percent would be the much harder work in the backyard. That was based on the last 7 days which totaled 150k steps which has been normal for me for the last several months.
    edited August 28
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