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BMI and 10,000 steps a day may not be as accurate or optimal as you think.....

Updated: May 6, 2023

Graham Kavanagh, specialist exercise instructor

When it comes to health and fitness, in particular your fitness aims..... how exactly do you measure your progression? Why are people obsessed with their 10,000 steps per day? Why is BMI inaccurate?

The 10,000 steps a day was 'invented' in the 1960's in a marketing campaign with a myth that the 10,000 steps a day is the magic number. The optimal number. A pedometer company invented the campaign. They sold their pedometers. There is nothing scientific to walking 10,000 steps a day for health or weight loss.

The reality is this..... any number of steps is beneficial to health, some individuals need a lot less than 10,000 whilst fitter people need a lot more but don't do it because they believe the optimal number is 10,000 steps.

In most instances, walking is not the most optimal activity for weight loss anyway.

BMI...... (body mass index) this is still used today to give a GENERAL guide to how underweight or overweight you are. BMI was invented many decades ago and is still used in hospitals to this very day. The inaccuracies of BMI are huge as you have to think back historically what it was for. To measure the degree of obesity in the general population to assist the government in allocating resources.

It was a way of health authorities and governments to quickly measure how healthy the population was. A quick way but flawed way, using simple height and weight measurements.

How is this inaccurate? BMI doesn't take into account body composition. It doesn't take into account whether the weight is fat or muscle. (This is another reason why I vote against bathroom weighing scales).

Using the BMI method, it can class exceptionally fit and muscular individuals as 'obese' because their weight is muscle mass. Not fat.

What is a better way to measure actual health? In particular fat loss? Body composition.

Either callipers or bio electrical impedance. I've used both. The latter is expensive and only accurate if used under strict conditions. When you last ate, any alcohol consumption..... for example. The guidelines for this are with the device.

Callipers are what personal trainers SHOULD be trained in, for accuracy, skill and knowing what you are doing with your clients. There is more satisfaction to that, applying your knowledge than just pushing a button to give a reading.

Other accurate methods are waist measurements, and waist to hips ratio. Both of which I have used and still do, depending on client goals.

Another excellent way I encourage everyone to go by is how your clothes fit. Though not exactly a measurement with total accuracy, if you are improving with fitness levels, your clothes will tell you the improvement. They may feel looser, or you may just look better in them, more proportioned. This is a realistic and practical approach anyone can take.

Education is essential in health and fitness, and at Graham Fit Personal Training I pride myself on knowledge, and straight forward information without the jargon. Have a fitness aim in mind? Get in touch and sees how I can help you!

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