Pedometers 101

by in Fitness, April 21, 2012

Counting individual steps may seem like a silly way to get some exercise but every little bit helps. Using a pedometer can be a fabulous motivational tool to get you to move more; use our tips and get stepping!

What is a Pedometer?
A pedometer is a pocket-sized device that senses movement and registers each step you take. Some units require a belt loop attachment while others can be carried in your pocket or worn around your neck. Some models may also have settings to estimate calories burned while walking, but these are often inaccurate unless there is an option to adjust for additional details like weight, age and gender.

Pedometers range in price from $6.00 to more than $30.00 – the higher pricing is typically associated with extra features like distance tracking and calorie counting.  Smartphone lovers will be pleased to know that there are quite a few pedometer apps – many of which are free or less than $3.00. Using the GPS already loaded in a Smartphone, many offer accurate distance tracking for less than a hand-held pedometer. Arawella Pedometer and Pedometer Pro GPS as well as Palm Shadow Footsteps Pedometer all carry high ratings.

Many fitness-centric wrist watches also come with built-in pedometers and heart rate monitors (more about heart rate monitors in an upcoming post).

Getting Started
Since everyone walks a little differently, it’s a good idea to calibrate your pedometer so you can estimate how much distance you’ve covered. First, start by taking a small number of steps (10 for example) to make sure you and the pedometer are on the same page. Then move on to figuring out how many steps it takes you to travel a greater distance.

Map out a route in your neighborhood or visit a local track so you know that the distance you’re covering is equal to one mile. Reset the pedometer, walk the mile, and see how many steps it counts – now you’ll know how many steps equal one mile for you no matter where you are.

Healthy Lifestyle Tips
•    10,000 steps a day is a good goal to work towards – this is the amount found to help reduce your risk of chronic disease.
•    12,000 to 15,000 steps a day is associated with successful weight loss.
•    Make it a healthy competition – challenge a friend or a co-worker to see who takes more steps.
•    Keep a daily log and see how many miles you cover in a week, then try to top it the next week.
•    Periodically increase your speed or add some hills to your routine to give your cardiovascular system a workout.

Tell Us: Do you use a pedometer?

Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition. See Dana’s full bio »

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Comments (1,927)

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  4. Patti says:

    I have used pedometers for a few years now and they are (on and off) my strategy for maintaining a 50 pound weight loss. I have a very sedentary job and may do as little as 1200 steps in a day if I am not vigilant about it. In my experience Omron makes the most reliable and drop-tolerant pedometers on the market. At about $30 they are also quite inexpensive.

  5. Deb S. says:

    I've used a pedometer for years now & it really helps to track progress/calories burned. My last job offered a Virgin Healthmiles program where they paid you to walk-it was awesome! I now track mine through a program with my HMO, Kaiser. (I use an inexpensive, under $20 model-Sportline)

    I've always worked for the 10,000 daily step goal, but now I know that I'm going to up that to 12,000-15,000 as I am working to shed some pounds!

  6. Vintage FN viewer says:

    I've been considering getting one of these soon. Glad to know they are affordable like this. I walk and exercise daily but I would like to know my progress better. Sounds like a very good tool to use.

  7. nora says:

    I have a fitbit… it tracks steps, floors, distance, calories burned, sleep patterns – I'm a geek so all these numbers are great to crunch. They also have a free companion site to see your progress, and it syncs wirelessly. I love it!

  8. I have found that using a pedometer keeps me motivated and helps me stay on track with my fitness program. Instead of focusing on the numbers on my bathroom scale, now I focus on reaching my daily step goal.

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