How to Choose a Pedometer

Since walking is one of the easiest exercises to begin with when you’re trying to establish a more active lifestyle, it’s helpful to know how to choose a pedometer. Like anything else you try to improve, it’s effective to have a measurement so you know when you’re making progress in achieving your goal. That’s where the pedometer comes in.  A pedometer is a small gadget that counts the number of steps you walk, based on your body’s movement. It’s a fun way to reach your goal, and see your progress.

The pedometer has been around for a long time. In the United States, it’s about 200 years old. Thomas Jefferson was the first recorded user of the pedometer.

How Much Does The Average Person Walk?

The average American walks only about 5000 steps per day, yet 10,000 steps are recommended for good health. According to the University of California, you will need to walk 10,000 or more steps per day to be considered an active walker. A 2004 study showed that men tend to walk further than women on average. If you’re heavily focused on weight loss, 12,000 to 15,000 steps a day will get you to your weight loss goal quicker.

That doesn’t mean you should start at 12,000 steps per day. Wear your pedometer for a few normal days, and see where you’re currently at. An inactive person may only average 1000 3000 steps per day. It doesn’t really matter where you begin, the point is to track your progress and improve just a little each day. I’d suggest you start by adding 500 steps/day, each week. It may take a couple of months to get to your target if you’re starting from being very inactive, but that’s better than burning out.

The average person’s stride length is approximately 2.5 feet. That means it takes just over 2000 steps to walk 1 mile. 10,000 steps is roughly 5 miles.

What to Look for As You Choose A Pedometer

Fitbit Zip PedometerPedometers typically cost anywhere from under $20 to a couple of hundred, depending on features. You can easily get an accurate pedometer in the $20-30 range. Although most pedometers are worn on your hip, there are also pedometer watches available.

Figure out which features you want. Some pedometers can do more than count steps you take:

  • Count your steps
  • Time your exercise
  • Count steps per minute
  • Estimate distance traveled
  • Estimate speed
  • Estimate number of calories burned
  • Track hours slept
  • Monitor your heart rate
  • Upload to computer (make sure it’s PC or Mac compatible, as appropriate)
  • Some include a panic alarm

Choose a durable, comfortable, and lightweight pedometer. It should have a clip that allows you to attach it securely to your belt or clothing. You can also get a safety strap to “double secure” it so that it doesn’t work loose.

Accuracy is important. If possible, try out the pedometer in the store. Walk 100 steps and check the pedometer’s readout. While it probably won’t be perfect, it should be close. You may have to adjust how you are wearing it to get a good reading.

Pick a display that is easy to read. Some displays can be difficult to see in daylight, or if you plan to be walking at night.

Health Benefits of Using a Pedometer

Pedometers work. The Australian Medical Association concluded “the use of the pedometer is associated with significant increases in physical activity and significant decreases in body mass index and blood pressure.

Specific health benefits of using a pedometer include:

  • Weight loss
  • Improved mood
  • Cardiovascular health
  • Bone health

Google maps can be a good tool for charting some interesting new walking routes in your neighborhood. Try the Google Map Pedometer or Map My Walk  to plan your walk. So now that you know how to choose a pedometer, get walking!

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3 Responses to How to Choose a Pedometer

  1. Josh February 25, 2014 at 12:01 pm #

    Great article on selecting pedometers. I have a Fitbit, and though it was expensive, I love it. There are some great models out there that are relatively cheap and count the same items, but why buy something new when I’ve got one that works just fine!
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  2. Alexander May 14, 2014 at 3:43 am #

    I have a cheap no-name pedometer that only displays my steps and the time I’ve been using it. I bought it on a whim and for $10 I’m more than satisfied with it. In my case it would have been awesome if it could monitor my heart rate because I had a heart scare and want to keep an eye on it.

    When i will decide to upgrade, Fitbit will most likely be on my list. That is if I decide or my old one suddenly dies.

    • DrBruce May 14, 2014 at 4:36 pm #

      Well, if you need to replace it eventually, prices are dropping as competition increases for the Fitbit. There have been some interesting new health devices launched through crowdfunding in the last year – although at least a couple of them look questionable.

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