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Using a Pedometer or Step Counter

Topic Overview

Using a pedometer or step counter is an easy way to track your activity. It allows you to count your steps instead of measuring the number of minutes you walk. A pedometer allows you to add up all the steps you take throughout the day and to find creative ways to add more to burn more calories. It can also motivate you. A quick check may show that you need more steps for the day. It can also push you to set new goals to take more steps.

There are two main types of pedometers:

  • Spring-lever pedometers count up and down motion, so they are worn on the hip. If your waist is large or you walk slowly, it might not be very accurate.
  • Accelerometer pedometers can sense movement. They don't all have to be worn on the hip. Some accelerometer pedometers can be worn like a watch, put in your pocket, or carried in a bag.

The simplest ones just count your steps. Some convert steps into miles. Many have extra features such as clocks, alarms, memory, and calories used. Be wary of calorie readings and distance calculators, though. They are not always accurate.

You can buy them at most sporting goods stores or on the Internet. Look for one that is easy to read and comes with a clip or safety strap to attach to your waistband or belt.

Make sure that it is comfortable if placed next to your skin.

When you are ready to start, read the instructions for setting your pedometer. The following tips may help.

  • Experiment with the best place to wear it. It may be most accurate if you wear it on your side above your hip or on your waist directly above your knee.
  • Depending on the type you use, your pedometer may need to be perpendicular to the ground to work right. If it is tilted or if it does not fit snugly to your body, the results may not be accurate. Experiment with finding the right place to wear it. It may not be accurate if you are walking uphill.
  • Make wearing it a habit. Put your pedometer on first thing in the morning. Do not take it off until you go to bed. Keep a log or journal of the number of steps you take each day.
  • If you have the type of pedometer that converts the number of steps into distance, you will have to set your step length. Follow the instructions on your pedometer, or try using a water method to help measure your steps. Pour a puddle of water on the sidewalk and step into it with both feet. Walk a few steps at your normal pace. Using a tape measure, find the distance between the heel prints of your right and left feet. This is your step length.
  • For the first week, go about your daily routine, but don't change your activity level. Record your steps each day. This will give you a baseline activity level. The next week, increase that amount by 2,000 steps a day (about 1 mile, or 20 minutes). Set a new goal each week, and try to work up to 10,000 to 12,000 steps a day.

Related Information

References

Other Works Consulted

  • Tyo BM, et al. (2011). Effects of body mass index and step rate on pedometer error in a free-living environment. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 43(2): 350–356.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Rhonda O'Brien, MS, RD, CDE - Certified Diabetes Educator
Last Revised March 19, 2013

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