Fitness Articles

How to Choose and Use a Pedometer

Get Fit the Right-Left-Right Way

A recent study from the RAND Corporation found that people who live in the suburbs are more prone to chronic physical health problems than people living in compact urban areas. The theory is that "suburban sprawl" reduces the time people spend walking, thus increasing the time they spend sitting in cars, which is associated with higher rates of obesity, high blood pressure, arthritis, headaches and breathing difficulties.

So if you live in the suburbs, or spend a lot of time in your car, what can you do to combat this growing problem? Just move! Not your house…just your body. Go for a walk!

The average American takes 5,000 steps a day, which is only half of the 10,000 daily steps recommended to achieve good health. For weight loss, 12,000 to 15,000 steps a day will help you achieve your goals. But who’s got time to count? That’s where the pedometer comes in. A pedometer is a nifty little gadget that counts your footsteps by sensing your body motion.

They range in price from $5 up, but before you buy one, check with your workplace. Some sponsor walking programs and give out pedometers for free. Pedometers come in different varieties, many of which boast lots of extras. Here are some common features:
  • Distance and Speed Estimators (calculated by programming average stride length, or with a GPS system, the latter of which is more accurate)
  • Calorie Expenditure Estimators (calculated by programming weight)
  • Stopwatches
  • Heart Rate monitor
  • Steps per Minute
  • Computer compatibility, which allows the user to upload data from the pedometer and graph stepping progress.
  • Flip Case (to prevent accidental button pressing)
  • One of the most important features a pedometer can boast, however, is comfort. It should not be bulky and should include a safety strap, so you don’t drop it down the toilet. The best place to wear a pedometer is at the waist, aligned with the knee.
Wearing a pedometer is a great way to keep track of your daily activity, motivating you to get on your feet on days when you haven’t been so active. You don’t have to set aside lots of extra time to work walking into your busy schedule. Here are some ways to add more steps each day:
  • Avoid rock-star parking spaces. You can add hundreds of steps each day by parking farther from (rather than closer to) entrances.
  • Play Tag. Playing with kids is sure to increase your daily step count, and it’s fun too.
  • Shun the elevator. Take the stairs. These more challenging steps will help to build muscle too.
  • Move your feet, not your fingers. Walk to the accounting office instead of calling or e-mailing to ask a question.
  • Pace. Whether you’re waiting for the bus, or on a layover at the airport, use the opportunity to get in some extra steps.
  • Clean your house. Been putting off emptying out the hall closet? Cleaning is a great way to increase your daily stepping totals.
  • Enjoy the weather. Although most of the leaves are on the ground and the summer nights are behind us, don’t spend the winter hibernating. Invest in a fleece scarf and a good pair of earmuffs and get outside for some fresh crisp air.
If you’re the competitive type, you may become a pedometer-addict, constantly trying to squeeze in a few extra steps, so consider yourself warned. But there's only one consequence of this addiction—a slimmer, trimmer, fitter you.

Track your daily steps with SparkPeople's Step Tracker.
We created an optional tracker for you to log your daily steps, but it has to be "turned on" if you want to use it.

To add a Step Tracker to your Fitness Tracker:

1. Go to "my Fitness" (your Fitness Tracker) under the My Tools tab.
2. Click the "Change Fitness Goals" button near the top of your Fitness Tracker page.
3. On the next page, click the "Setup" link next to the Step Tracker.
4. Set your daily goal, make sure to check the box (to add it to your tracker) and "Save Your Changes."

Now, your new step tracker will show up on your Fitness Tracker for easily tracking each day!

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Member Comments

  • I agree with the other posters. This article did not actually give you any information on how to choose a pedometer. I do agree that a clip will keep it out of the toilet, however, very disappointed in the lack of actual information on how to choose a pedometer.
  • There are lots of good reviews of pedometers on Amazon, that was the resource I used. I decided against a fitbit and bought a 3D Trisport pedometer. I'm using it for two weeks now and happy with it; for less than $25 it does all I need and is a good motivator. Sometimes I exercise in the house to get all my steps in if the weather's bad.
  • At the risk of sounding like a big whiner, when you live where it's well below freezing for 6+ months of the year, this is not always an option. Even with bundling up, one can only go so far in -20C with the windchill bringing it to -30C. I hate malls, I have ADD and get overstimulated and distressed being there. The best I can do is a treadmill or elliptical trainer at the gym, with my headphones on. Once the snow is gone I get out there.
  • I like the activity and pedometer that is in my smart phone. I can see it often since it is on me and doesn't get lost easy. I see if my steps are low for the day that I need to increase my steps.
  • If yours is not computer comparable use a spreadsheet to keep track., it only take a minute or two.
  • I have had my fitbit one for a little over two years now. I love it and have never had a problem with it. It's ranked in the top 3 for being the most accurate on calorie output as well. With the app you can also input exercise that the tracker won't easily pick up, like a Pilates session. I have lost 50lbs and maintained it over the time I've had my fitbit.
    I am a total fail on pedometers. I will walk and count 40 steps and then open it up and it only has 3. I will get in my car and drive 5 miles and it will say I've taken 300 steps. I have tried wearing them in different positions and the only one that really works is on my shoe. But I don't like the look of that at work. I've had multiple free ones from work and they just don't work for me at all. I bought one for about $20 and it worked for a while and then stopped. I thought the baqttery was dead and took it to the battery store. They replaced it and it still didn't work. They were nice and took the battery back and didn't charge me. I wanted to get a fitbit but I'm scared to pay all that money and then have it not work.
  • I, too, was hoping for comparisons.
  • I was hoping also it would have comparisons.
  • Great tips. Thank you
  • Thank you for this article from a beginner. It has motivated me to become more aware of my daily activities.
  • I love my Omron Pocket Pedometer,seems to be very accurate and resets itself at midnight.
  • I'd like to support SparkPeople by buying some of their merchandise. I looked at the SP pedometer. I like that it has a cover so it won't accidentally reset, but suggest a picture of it with the cover open and more info about what it tracks.

    I recently bought a Sportline pedometer. It's not entirely accurate, but it still gets me motivated to move, and for me that's the point. Not knowing much about them, I didn't think about the reset button being on the front. If I lean against something for more than 3 seconds or bend over, it wipes out the day's data. Going to try attaching it to a lanyard or devise some kind of protective cover. However, I'd consider an SP ped if I knew more about it and could see what's under the hood.
  • The pedometer has changed my life. I have lost over 60lbs thanks to moving my body more. I have an Omron and a Fitbit Zip. The Fitbit shows how sedentary or active I am on a daily basis. This spurs me to be more active.
  • I have an Omron Pedometer that I bought in 2007. It is still working perfectly today and the only time it's not working is when the battery is low. It has memory, big letter on front and the time. I no longer have the alligator clip, but just use the clip that holds it and it clips onto anything like my pants, pocket, etc. I put it on in the morning and take it off at night and it has become a part of my lifestyle. I don't need anyone to tell me if there are better, this one suits me fine. If anything ever happens to it, I hope to buy another Omron. What I'm worried about is reaching that 10,000 + steps!

About The Author

Liza Barnes Liza Barnes
Liza has two bachelor's degrees: one in health promotion and education and a second in nursing. A registered nurse and mother, regular exercise and cooking are top priorities for her. See all of Liza's articles.

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