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 many types of pedometers. The simplest ones just count your steps. Digital pedometers track your steps but also tell you how far that is in miles. Some have clocks, safety alarms, or a 7-day memory. Others can tell you how many calories you have burned. Be wary of calorie readings, however. They are not always accurate.

Pedometer prices vary, but a good pedometer may cost $20 to $30. 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.

Once 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.
  • Your pedometer needs 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 per 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 per day.

Related Information


Author Jeannette Curtis
Editor Kathleen M. Ariss, MS
Associate Editor Pat Truman, MATC
Primary Medical Reviewer Caroline S. Rhoads, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Matthew I. Kim, MD - Endocrinology & Metabolism
Last Updated February 26, 2010

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