Pedometers and 10,000 Steps Programs
Tracking your activity is a great way to stay motivated and remain active long term. One of the best ways to keep track of your walking is by using a step counter or pedometer. Specifically, pedometers help you:
- Discover your current activity
- Start monitoring and increasing your physical activity
- Set personal goals
- Motivate and remind yourself to increase and/or maintain increased activity
The following are answers to common questions regarding pedometers:
What is a pedometer?
A pedometer is a pager-sized device worn over the hipbone that records the number of steps the wearer takes.
How do they work?
Simple step counters contain a small pendulum that moves each time you step. The pendulum is attached to a counter which keeps track of the steps.
Is that all pedometers do?
Simple step counters record steps only. Some fancier digital pedometers estimate things like distance walked or calories burned from the steps counted. These measurements are only estimates however. More sophisticated pedometers also need to be calibrated to make reliably accurate estimates.
What should I look for when buying a pedometer?
Here are a few tips:
- Skip the bells and whistles, unless they're very important to you. For most people, a simple, accurate step counter provides all they need to track their activity and keep motivated to move more.
- One extra to consider is a leash. This is a short string or elastic that attaches to the pedometer and your waistband and helps ensure you won't lose the pedometer. Many pedometers come with them automatically.
- You don't need the top of the line, but avoid the cheapest (they tend to be inaccurate)
- You can find a reliable model for about $15 – $30
Is there a particular pedometer/ step counter you recommend?
There are several good reliable step counters on the market. The one we use for our programs is the Yamax Digiwalker SW-200. It only counts steps, but is considered the gold standard by pedometer researchers who use it as their most accurate reference. It's easy to use: simply push the reset button to zero, close the lid, place it on your waistband or belt, and start walking. This model retails for around $20.
In general, look for ease of use, a clear display that can be read in different kinds of light, a design that's comfortable on the type of clothes you usually wear, and sturdiness. And, of course, accuracy is paramount.
How do I wear the pedometer?
Correct position is essential to getting an accurate recording of steps, so take care in putting your pedometer on. Here's how to wear your pedometer correctly.
- Clip the pedometer on the waistband of your belt or clothing.
- Position the pedometer so that it is directly over your left or right hipbone. This is at the midline of one thigh, directly over one knee.
- The pedometer should fit snugly against your body, with the clip against your body.
- It should be positioned to be straight up and down, not angled.
- If your pedometer has a leash or safety strap, secure it to your waistband or belt as well.
- Read the manufacturer's directions for more detailed guidelines.
How do I know if the pedometer is working properly?
We recommend this simple test of the pedometer before you start wearing it daily.
- Place the pedometer on your waistband as directed by the manufacturers guide.
- Set the pedometer to zero.
- Walk 50 steps.
- Look at the display.
- If the pedometer is measuring accurately the pedometer count should be within 4 or 5 steps of your count.
- If it's not, readjust the position of the pedometer and try again. Everyone's body is a bit different – getting the positioning right is key to an accurate recording.
- If you test and reposition several times and still get an inaccurate reading, return the pedometer and get a replacement.
10,000 Steps FAQs
Pedometer walking and 10,000 steps programs are very popular, but many people don't know exactly what they are or how to begin. Here are answers to common questions about the 10,000 steps phenomenon.
Wow, 10,000 steps sounds like a lot. How can I do all that?
Actually, it's not as much as it seems. Even very sedentary people usually walk 5,000 – 6,000 steps per day. So you only need to walk an extra 4,000 – 5,000 steps. Most people take 2,000 steps per mile, so if you are very inactive you will need to walk about 2 to 2 ½ miles per day. Walking at a moderate pace takes about 30 – 40 minutes. Interestingly, this is about the same as the public health guidelines to accumulate 30 minutes of moderate intensity activity.
Do I have to take all these steps at the same time?
Absolutely not! You can accumulate your steps throughout the day. That's what so great about 10,000 steps programs—all your steps count. Every time you decide to walk to a co-worker's office instead of emailing, take the stairs instead of the elevator, park a little further away, you increase your daily step total.
What are some other ways I can add steps?
There are a myriad of ways to accumulate steps. Here are just a few:
- Park farther away at the grocery store, mall, or work
- Push mow your grass instead of using a riding lawn mower
- Use your lunch break as an opportunity to get out and walk
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator
- Instead of calling a neighbor, walk over and see them
- Take a 30-minute walk after dinner
For more ideas, go to http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/heart/obesity/wecan/get-active/getting-active.htm.
How do I get started?
You can get started in five easy steps. These are adapted from walking expert Mark Fenton's America Walks series on PBS:
- Step One: Get a good pedometer: The best pedometer for a 10,000 steps program needn't be expensive or have a lot of special features. For more details on how to purchase a good pedometer, go to http://walking.about.com/od/measure/tp/pedometer.htm
- Step Two: Set up a logging system: Research shows that people who track their daily steps are much more likely to continue long term. You can use a paper and pencil logging form, an electronic form, or other method. Choose what works best for you. You can also use our simple tracking form (pdf).
- Step Three: Find out how many steps you usually take during the day. For one week, just walk as you normally do wearing your pedometer. This will tell you how much you walk now so that you can set realistic goals as to how to increase your steps. Keep a log of your daily steps—use our tracking form (pdf).
- Step Four: If you don't walk at least 10,000 steps per day on average, boost your daily steps by twenty percent. For example if you currently walk 5,000 steps per day, try to add 1,000 steps per day. Do this for a week.
- Step Five: Each week increase your steps by another twenty percent until you reach 10,000 steps per day or more.
What happens if I'm not getting all of the 10,000 steps needed for this program?
Think of 10,000 daily steps as your long-term goal. Using the twenty-percent-boost system will get you to that goal before long. It is better to add steps gradually so that you can find ways to fit the extra activity into your daily routine. Many researchers now agree that just adding 2,000 steps more into your daily routine can help you lose weight. As long you keep improving, you will inevitably become healthier.
How can I learn more?
For more info, go to: