Clocking 10 000 steps daily alone will not prevent weight gain

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If you own a fitness tracker, you might find yourself desperately marching around to help you reach your 10 000 step-count for the day.

Somehow, in a decade of technology and wearable health trackers, we became obsessed with the so-called “golden standard” of 10 000 steps a day to improve our health.

But if you are desperately trying to tally those steps without doing anything else, 10 000 steps will not prevent weight gain, according to a new study from Brigham Young University.

According to a news release, researchers from the university’s Exercise Science Department, along with colleagues from the Nutrition, Dietetics and Food Science Department, studied 120 first-year students during their first six months of college as part of a step-counting experiment.

Exercise not enough

 These students walked either 10 000, 12 500 or 15 000 steps a day for six days a week for 24 weeks, while their caloric intake and weight was tracked by the researchers.

 Researchers wanted to determine whether the exact number of daily steps made any difference when it came to regulating weight, especially in a college setting where weight gain is commonly observed during the first academic year.

Besides the increase in daily steps, participants in the study still gained weight – around an average of 1.5kg over six weeks.

This lead the research to a conclusion: "Exercise alone is not always the most effective way to lose weight. If you track steps, it might have a benefit in increasing physical activity, but our study showed it won't translate into maintaining weight or preventing weight gain,” said lead author Bruce Bailey, professor of exercise science at BYU.

Even minimal exercise has benefits

Even though weight wasn’t affected by the steps, there are other emotional and health benefits, according to the study authors. They found, for example, that the students who clocked 12 500 and 15 000 steps every day were less sedentary than their peers.

"The biggest benefit of step recommendations is getting people out of a sedentary lifestyle," Bailey stated in the press release. "Even though it won't prevent weight gain on its own, more steps are always better for you."

Image credit: iStock

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