10,000 steps vs. the gym: Which workout wins?

We’re all searching for the workout that’ll get us to our fittest, quickest. Some people advocate for a full day of continuous movement, while others reckon 20-minutes of maximum effort will do the trick. Here’s what Chris Judd has to say on the matter.

This content is sponsored by Fitbit

Is it better to do that half hour of effort or move continuously at a steadier pace? It’s something people are always debating and everyone seems to have an opinion on it.

But it’s not an ‘either/or’ decision. Those who are constantly deliberating about what’s the perfect form of exercise are missing the point, because there isn’t a sacred answer. The challenge is to just do it. To start moving in whatever way suits you.

All workouts are good for your health. The key is just to be realistic about which workouts are a good fit for your lifestyle, too. Here are a few things to think about.

Do what you enjoy

The general rule is, you’ll exercise more if you enjoy the type of exercise you’re doing. So if the thought of a HIIT session makes you roll your eyes, then you’re probably better off trying to walk to work or going for a walk round the park. And vice versa. If you love the rush a circuit or spin class gives you, then don’t feel bad about driving into work.

Timing is everything

We’re all busy. And for people whose work, social and family life are really hectic, a regular, high intensity workout will be easier to fit in over a hike. There’s plenty of research that shows an hour’s endurance training could be done just as effectively in less than half the time, so don’t feel guilty about not dedicating enough ‘hours’ to exercising – it’s the impact that counts.

Likewise, if you’re active throughout the day, your workplace is effectively your gym.

Make your #onechange

Factor movement into your day by investing in a Fitbit (AIA Vitality members can get up to 25% off their purchase) or by setting reminders in your phone to go for a walk.

Get the gear

I’ve recently started wearing a Fitbit, and it’s a great way to keep track of your movement throughout the day, especially when it comes to your step count. It sends reminders when you’ve been still for too long, which is really easy motivation to get up and start moving.

Think differently about fitness

We generally think as we get older we should be lowering the intensity of our workouts, but I don’t personally agree. If there are legitimate physical challenges, then obviously things like running aren’t going to be an option, which is where your steps can help keep you moving.

But most people don’t realise high-intensity sprints can actually be gentle on the joints. That’s because when you run fast, the momentum is such that it takes some of the impact out compared to a longer, slow run. So, it’s worth trying new things to see what works best for your body.

Take it day-by-day

For me, how I work out depends on my circumstances that day. My preference is a high-intensity workout – either running, circuits or tennis. But I recently put my back out and those kinds of exercises became a real challenge. So I started walking to and from meetings when I’d usually catch an Uber and it just proved that it’s really just about constantly adapting to what suits you at the time.

Kate Allott, the National Fitness Manager from Anytime Fitness, weighs in.

Which is better for you? 10,000 steps or a gym session?

Both are vitally important! Let me explain why. Have you heard the phrase, ‘sitting is the new smoking’? Well, while 10,000 steps a day isn’t exactly the fast way to your dream bod, it is the way to a healthy one, by negating a lot of the negative effects a sedentary lifestyle brings. A gym session is going to see a higher release of endorphins, higher calorie burn, and may help us reach our goals faster, however if you are sitting for the remaining 23 hours of the day it might not do as much as you would hope.

What is the difference between them?

As the effects are not immediate, it is easy to ignore what sitting all day can do. Sometimes we need to stop and realise just how sedentary our lifestyles are. Moving 10,000 steps per day can significantly reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and other cardiovascular-related illnesses. While gym sessions will also reduce these risks, they add the benefits of strength training, which is important for variety, stress release, building lean muscle, and the opportunity to burn some serious calories. Fitting both into your day allows us to combat those hours we spend stationary.

Can there be different answers for different people, or does it depend on your desired outcomes?

There are always variables depending on the person and their abilities, however in this circumstance everyone can benefit from both. Just like hydration being vital to life, so is movement. No matter your lifestyle, size, or goal, ensuring you move 10,000 steps is very important. In addition to that, my favourite thing about the gym is that there really is something for everyone. While it may seem daunting to some, a coach can always help you to find something you are comfortable with and that you enjoy.

This article is brought to you by Fitbit. Fitbit's family of fitness products help you stay motivated and improve your health by tracking your activity, exercise, food, weight and sleep. AIA Vitality members can save up to 25% off the recommended retail price of a Fitbit device when it is purchased through the AIA Vitality website.