UK health guidelines suggest that adults should aim to take 10,000 "steps" per day, and that less than 5,000 should be considered a sedentary lifestyle.

I walk and cycle rather than take the car for most journeys and assumed I'd make this target easily. Some months ago I got some pedometer software included in a new smartphone and was shocked to discover I only averaged about 7,000.

Since then I've been making up the shortfall by running on the spot when I have nothing else productive to do - waiting for the kettle to boil, or cleaning my teeth for instance. I feel better for it too: I've lost weight, and my aerobic capacity has improved.

However, a friend who is a bit of a fitness fanatic recently told me this was "cheating" and "didn't count". She was unable to elucidate as to why when challenged.

This seems patently absurd: while running on the spot lacks the accelerative component of actual running and is obviously less exercise, you're still lifting the legs and working the aerobic system to some extent.

So: am I right in thinking running on the spot is valuable exercise? Is it more or less of a workout than an equivalent amount of rapid walking? And, if these things are true, where might someone get the idea that it's "cheating"?

  • +1 I think this question is interesting - my profession involves sitting at a desk all day, so I probably walk less than 5000 steps every day, but I hit the gym 6 days a week and lift for about 2 hours each time. Am I thus living a sedentary lifestyle?
    – Josh
    Commented Jul 11, 2014 at 14:00
  • I've heard that if you are at a desk job and sit for most of the day, regular exercise cannot compensate for the sedentariness. So maybe?
    – Megasaur
    Commented Jul 13, 2014 at 14:49

1 Answer 1


If you've seen benefits from it, keep doing it. Regardless of how it compares to other sorts of exercises, if it is working for you, then it is most definitely "valuable exercise".

The only point I could attempt to make in support of your friend would be to say that running in place likely will not be as beneficial if you're trying to build up endurance directly applicable to running races, but in terms of general fitness you certainly are not cheating. As to where she might get the idea of cheating, I would say its because of what you said yourself, that running in place is "obviously less exercise". If you stick with the hard number of 10,000, then 10,000 steps of running in place will not equal 10,000 steps of running forward. She likely doesn't want you to think that you've done the equivalent of 10,000 steps forward, as in reality you have not.

In short, keep doing your running in place, and continue to enjoy the benefits of it. Tell your friend that you're aware running in place is different than running forward, but that its beneficial for you; I would think as a fitness fanatic she would appreciate that people do what works for them.

  • Thanks for your answer. Spot running is certainly less exercise than real running, but I remain curious how it compares with walking.
    – Bob Tway
    Commented Jul 11, 2014 at 16:05
  • 1
    @MattThrower depends on your intensity with it, but if you're doing it with a moderate effort then its likely more exercise than walking Commented Jul 11, 2014 at 16:11
  • And consider all the other on the spot exercises: skipping, lunges, tuck jumps, push-ups etc ...
    – Megasaur
    Commented Jul 13, 2014 at 15:02

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