I'm not in favour of counting steps simply because it focuses on quantity over quality of movement. The only advantage might be that it will motivate some people to move more for a while. However, as in counting calories or percentage of animal to plant foods, it says very little about the quality of the input.
Eating 2000 calories of deep-fried fish and chips is not equal in terms of nutritional value to eating 2000 calories of a variety of organic, seasonal, locally grown vegetables and poached deep-sea salmon, which is not equal to eating 1000 calories of boiled out-of-season, imported vegetables and farmed salmon.
The nutritional value of the food you eat is affected by how you grow it (organic vs pesticide, how much you process it (found in nature vs farmed/cooked), how you store it (cold/room temperature), how and how far you transport it (local vs imported), how long you wait till you eat it (degree of freshness) and how you cook it (from raw to deep-fried, from steamed to heavily boiled).
Just as the quality of what you eat matters, the quality of how you move will give a good health outcome.
10 000 steps on the treadmill in a temperature-controlled environment is not equal to 10 000 steps done in the countryside, on natural terrain, which is not equal to 10 000 steps done on a level, flat and hard pavement in an urban environment.
10 000 steps might be too much for some people and not enough for others. 10 000 steps may do damage to someone whose body hasn't been conditioned because of a sedentary lifestyle due to illness or injury or depression or just a lifetime of poor movement habits.
10 000 steps may eventually do damage to someone with less than optimal alignment, for example whose feet are turned out (not pointing forward), overloading the inner side of the knee (medial meniscus) or whose knees are locked - overusing the thighs, under-using the lateral hip muscles - or whose pelvis is forward, overloading the front of the knees, the ankles and the toes. Ouch!
Even the rate at which you move/walk doesn't mean all that much as the potential benefits to the heart will vary from person to person depending on their age, their habitual activity level, their general health.
You can't have one and same diet for people have different needs in terms of calorific and nutritional value according to their age, their activity level, their jobs, their genetics.The same goes for movement - everyone will have different needs in terms of movement and should move in a way which meets their specific requirements. A busy builder will not have the same needs as an office worker but they may well both suffer from backache due to doing too much of certain movements and not enough of others.
How about eating an optimal diet of exactly the SAME organic, seasonal vegetable and high quality fish every single day? It may sound good but is likely to lead to nutritional deficiencies. Variety is key.
The same goes for movement - the body needs a great variety of movement for optimal health.
I see more benefits in focusing on the quality AND variety of natural movement, including walking, squatting, hanging, hinging at the hip, etc. Also key is a variety of pace, environment, incline (you don't have to go fast to feel the effect of walking up a hill on your heart!). And the more you are outdoors using your own body to move (not a bike, not sticks), the greater variety you are exposed to!
I recommend learning corrective exercises in the safe environment of a private session or class that will prep your body for a more natural gait, involving hip extension - using your glutes with every step. Corrective exercises that undo tension and stiffness in your specific weak spots so you can start using your body the way it was designed to function.
Are you willing to start undoing the effects of a sedentary lifestyle for a better health outcome?
Mum of 4, nature lover, passionate about the power of human movement.