Surprise! You Don’t Get as Many Steps as You Think You Do.

I’m pretty sure it happens to everybody. I know it happened to me. I’ll call it “The First Day Fitbit Surprise”. It’s what happens at the end of your very first day with your very first Fitbit. You simply can’t believe how many steps you got. But, not in a good way!

For me that day was January 2, 2013.

The company I work for is concerned about the health of it’s employees. To that end it we were all offered a free Fitbit and invited to join a company wide monthly competition. At the end of each month the top three “steppers” would each receive a $50 gift card to a restaurant or retail outlet of our choice.

My company is actually a Christian ministry with two very distinct parts. There’s a radio station and a youth camp that we call “The Ranch”. I work at the station which is housed in a modest sized building. We do our jobs sitting. The youth camp is located out in the country on many, many acres of rolling hillside. The people who work at the ranch don’t sit much. But, both sides of the ministry are part of the same step tracking competition. That sounds fair, doesn’t it?

I actually liked the idea of competing with the ranch employees who not only moved a lot while they were working, they were also younger than me. In some cases, much younger. Game on!

The ranch employees got their Fitbits before I did so I was hearing how some were getting 17,000 steps a day. No worries. At the time I was a runner and usually went for a three mile run every day. I was certain I was going to leave them in the dust.

Finally my Fitbit arrived on January 2, 2013. It was the little Zip. Nothing fancy. It simply counted steps, calories, and miles. All I cared about were the steps. I set it up and once I got home from work (where I sit) I went for a run convinced the ranch folk wouldn’t know what hit them when my totals were added to the group.

I finished the run full of joy and anticipation. I pulled the Fitbit out of my pocket, tapped the screen, and prepared to be amazed myself. Instead I was assaulted by “The First Day Fitbit Surprise” The number on my little Zip was lower than I expected. Way lower!!

We Americans average under 5,000 steps a day. That works out to less than an hour of walking. As a culture, we don’t move much. We don’t need to. We can get our meals at the drive through. We can choose our video entertainment with a remote. We can communicate with anyone anywhere without having to take a single step in their direction.

I think 5,000 is high. It’s an average that’s boosted by all the people who are hitting 10,000 steps or more. In my opinion, the average American who isn’t moving with any intentionality is probably closer to just a couple thousand steps on a good day.

But, we think we’re moving a lot more than we are and are shocked by how low the step total is the first time we see it. And, that can be so discouraging if you’re really committed to moving more and sitting less.

When I pulled my Fitbit out after that first run I was shocked to see I had less than 5,000 steps. Clearly, beating my co-workers was not going to happen simply because I ran three miles every day. I wasn’t even going to reach the coveted goal of 10,000 unless I made some changes.

It took many months before I was on top of the leaderboard, but I eventually made it. It required doing a whole lot more than simply parking at the back of the lot when I went to the store or putting away one piece of laundry at a time. Both are good ways to increase your step totals, but not nearly enough to boost them way up and at the same time skyrocket your fitness level.

I learned over time the answer to The First Day Fitbit Surprise is becoming relentlessly intentional. It’s also key to getting 20,000 steps every day for a year with no breaks. Starting next Wednesday I’ll begin a series to help you increase your intentionality. I feel strongly it’ll help you get more steps, if that’s a goal you have. Becoming relentlessly intentional can also help you in so many other areas of life. It’ll be a multi-blog series and I invite you to check it out.


If you struggle with making fitness stick you can change that today. The 30 Day Fitness Challenge will help you begin building a fitness habit that creates fitness momentum which eventually leads to fitness transformation.

Walking is fitness hiding in plain sight. The 30 Day Fitness Challenge will help you set the perfect Fitbit goal for you. The Challenge includes a contract you can make with yourself. That might sound cheesy, but having a signed piece of paper is a powerful motivator on those days when you just don’t feel like it.

Every day you reach your Fitbit goal is a win. The 30 Day Fitness Challenge includes a Win Tracker to celebrate your progress every day!

Best of all…The 30 Day Fitness Challenge is free!!

If you don’t have a Fitbit I recommend the Fitbit Inspire HR. This is the Fitbit I use to track my 20,000 steps a day. The Inspire HR also tracks your heart rate and sleep so you get an even wider picture of your fitness progress.


(By the way…if you use the link above to but a Fitbit Inspire HR this blog will receive a small commission. It won’t add anything to what you pay, but letting you know is the right thing to do)

Lastly, this blog is designed to help you embrace walking as a fitness activity. It’s sustainable, flexible, effective, and fun. Every week I post new articles with stories and helpful suggestions to Win at Fitness.

If you click FOLLOW (below on your phone…to the right and above on your computer) you’ll receive an email with a link to each new blog post.




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