The teenagers were asked to use the monitors for two months, and then complete more questionnaires and participate in focus-group discussions. During the focus groups, almost all the young people expressed initial enthusiasm for the monitors and said they had at first become more active.
But the allure soon faded. After about a month, most of the teenagers had begun to find the monitors chiding and irksome, making them feel lazy if they did not manage 10,000 steps each day. Many also said they now considered themselves more physically inept than they had at the study’s start, often because they were rarely near the top of the activity leader boards. Most telling, a large percentage of the adolescents reported feeling less motivated to be active now than before getting the monitor.
Obviously. The whole arbitrary 10,000 step thing is just stupid. It was made up essentially by a Japanese pedometer company and has no scientific basis. Locking kids into a metric that, in many cases, cannot work for them is counter-productive. Give them a time-based goal, or allow them to modulate the step count according to their activity. The goal isn’t to have people get worn out, it’s to get them to be more active. And that starts slowly, not with some massive goal that can be hard to meet.
Apple has the right approach with the Apple Watch. At first, it offers a goal of 400 active calories (though the way these active calories are calculated is dubious; I see calories increment when I’m not doing anything). At the end of the week, if you meet the goal, it suggests that you raise it, just a bit. If you don’t meet it for a while, it suggests that you lower it. Users can modulate their goals according to their real ativity, not some arbitrary round number.