Most fitness trackers feature a pedometer, which counts your steps as you work, play, exercise, and go about your other daily tasks. Tracking steps and going toe to toe with your friends in a step challenge can be a great way to motivate yourself to be more active.
However, as fun as these competitions may seem, unhealthy comparisons to others and placing too much weight on winning can turn fun challenges into negative experiences. These are some factors to consider before you start participating in step challenges.
Problems With Step Challenges
Everyone Has a Different Job
Whether you’re competing with one person or multiple, every participant’s day is going to look different. For example, someone who works at a desk will find it more challenging to exceed the steps of a letter carrier, a construction worker, or a restaurant server.
Even if you try to make up for it during your leisure time, your friends who work all day on their feet may also stay active after work. Comparing your steps with someone who is naturally active in their job may leave you feeling defeated.
If you work sitting down, it’s ideal to get up and stretch your legs periodically, but instead of breaking your focus to force your steps in during work, try scheduling impactful workouts during your off time.
Everyone Has a Different Lifestyle
You can be active enough and still spend some of your leisure time playing video games or reading books. However, your friend who spends their free time biking or swimming is going to have a leg up.
Should you feel bad? No, because rest and recovery are important parts of staying healthy. However, constantly comparing your stats to those of a friend who spends the weekend hiking might lead to feelings of discouragement.
It’s likely you and your friends all enjoy different activities that require various levels of energy, and that’s fine! However, there’s no need to trade your controller for a pair of running shoes just to win an activity challenge on your fitness tracker. It’s important to be mindful of these differences when you check the results.
Everyone Has a Different Fitness Level
Perhaps your friend is a fitness buff. 20,000 steps a day is a cinch for them, but you’re just getting used to 8,000. Don’t sweat it. Everyone one of your friends is likely to have a different fitness level, both above and below yours.
In fact, that fit friend may have been where you are once, so be happy for them — not jealous — and focus on using that as encouragement to level up. Instead of competing, be supportive and motivate one another.
You May Overlook Other Workouts
Steps are only one metric when it comes to fitness. While you probably won’t achieve the same amount of cardio exercise during a 20-minute strength session as you would a 20-minute walk, focusing only on steps to satisfy your fitness tracker’s pedometer may cause you to miss out on other enjoyable forms of exercise that better suit your goals.
Instead of limiting yourself to counting steps, rotate your focus between other metrics, including time, reps, calories burned, weight lifted, pace, and more.
You May End Up Overdoing It
For some, any kind of challenge quickly goes beyond friendly competition. You may end up overdoing even a simple step challenge by trying to get your steps in when you should be relaxing your mind and body.
If you find yourself exhausted by the idea of trying to fit more steps into your day, it may be time to revisit your fitness goals and explore other activities that will help you achieve them. Don’t forget — fitness trackers can typically track many types of exercise!
Others May Not Be Syncing Their Devices
Another downside to step challenges is that you can’t always tell what place you’re in if your competitors haven’t synced their devices. You could think you’re in first, only to see a friend is thousands of steps ahead an hour before the challenge is over.
This makes it tricky to compete because you never really know where anyone stands, and it can lead to unnecessary worrying and overcompensating.
Not Every Step Is a Step
You should also keep in mind that not every step on a pedometer is really a step. Depending on the quality and sensitivity of the fitness tracker they’re using, your competitor may get extra steps for simple movements like waving their hand or petting their cat. Don’t let a friend’s potentially inaccurate count stress you out.
Better Ways to Use Your Fitness Tracker
Compete Against Yourself
With any goal, using metrics to measure your objectives is crucial in tracking your progress. Whether you stick with steps or switch to calories burned, weight lifted, or another metric, you can use your own stats to compete with yourself.
Even better, you can do so right in your tracker’s app, on paper, or by using Notion to track your fitness goals. As you get comfortable with your metrics and start meeting goals, slowly increase them to beat your previous record.
Explore Other Features On Your Tracker
If you own an Apple Watch, a Fitbit, or something else, your device’s workout options likely go beyond steps and walking. For example, you can track lesser-known Apple Watch exercises like archery and fitness gaming.
Along with these different types of exercises, fitness trackers typically help you see data on how long your workout session was, how many calories you burned, the distance you went, and how many hours you spent time on your feet.
Explore Other Fitness Apps
While walking is good for you, it takes a solid chunk of time to get 10,000 steps. You may find some other enjoyable exercises that will help you burn just as much energy in less time.
Your tracker may also offer a companion app or subscription service that helps you learn new types of exercises. Or you can use the Nike Training Club app or other workout apps to track new routines on your fitness tracker.
Enjoy Getting Active With Your Fitness Tracker
As fun as they may seem, step challenges should be taken lightly. There are far too many variables like lifestyle and fitness level for everyone to be on the same playing field.
Keep these points in mind if you do you enter any type of fitness challenge and remember you don’t always need to compete to participate. Cheer on your friends, enjoy yourself, and be sure to check out some of your fitness tracker’s other features, as well.
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