Pedometer

Definition

A pedometer is an electronic device that senses movement to count and display the number of steps taken or the distance traveled.

Description

A pedometer is a small device usually worn attached to the belt or pants. It counts each time an individual takes a step and displays the total number of steps taken. Pedometers have become increasingly complex in recent years, with pedometers now available that analyze data, upload to computers, or can integrate with applications on smartphones.

Pedometers work by recording movements. Most pedometers work by recording the movement of the hips. Each time a step is taken, the hips move slightly. This shifts the mechanism inside the pedometer, which records the step. Pedometers on the belt should be worn vertically for highest accuracy. Some, usually higher end, pedometers attach to the shoe instead of the belt. These pedometers work by sensing the vibration that is created when the foot hits the ground. Pedometers cannot tell what is causing the movement they sense. This means that if an individual shakes a pedometer back and forth the pedometer will count it as steps taken. Pedometers do not work accurately if placed in backpacks, purses, or pockets.

Types of pedometers

There are many different types of pedometers. Most pedometers cost between US$10 and US$30 dollars, but they can cost upward of US$100 for very accurate high-tech versions. Pedometers vary greatly in the type of options included and in accuracy. Some pedometers have been shown to misestimate the number of steps taken by as much as 50%. After purchasing a pedometer, it may be helpful to count a specified number of steps (e.g., 100) while taking them, and then check the pedometer readout for accuracy. No pedometer is completely accurate, but some come quite close.

Some pedometers simply count steps. Others provide information about calories, distance, or speed. Some reset automatically each day or week, others must be reset by hand. Pedometers with a reset button that is covered by a closed case are generally considered preferable, as those with an exposed reset button may be reset accidently if the pedometer is bumped.

KEY TERMS
Alzheimer's disease—
An incurable disease of older individuals that results in the destruction of nerve cells in the brain and causes gradual loss of mental and physical functions.
Cholesterol—
A waxy substance made by the liver and also acquired through diet. High levels in the blood may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Stroke—
Irreversible damage to the brain caused by insufficient blood flow to the brain as the result of a blocked artery. Damage can include loss of speech or vision, paralysis, cognitive impairment, and death.
Type 2 diabetes—
Formerly called adult-onset diabetes. In this form of diabetes, the pancreas either does not make enough insulin or cells become insulin resistant and do not use insulin efficiently.

Many newer models of pedometers can integrate with a computer or smartphone to store performance data and provide graphs and other performance feedback. These types of pedometers are usually more expensive than similar pedometers that do not provide this type of integration. Although such data analysis can be fun and helpful, a lower-cost traditional pedometer is usually just as effective.

The type of pedometer that is right for a given individual depends on a variety of factors including budget, interest in technology, what kinds of functions are desired, and fitness activities. Some types of pedometers are better calibrated for walking, and others for running or jogging. Reading reviews of pedometers can help determine the pedometer that is the right fit with an individual's goals and lifestyle.

Using a pedometer to improve health

How many steps each day are right for an individual depend on a number of factors, including age, health, and fitness level. However, for most individuals in good health, 10,000 steps a day (about 5 miles or 8 kilometers) is recommended.

When beginning to use a pedometer to lose weight or improve health, the first few days should be used to get a baseline reading. The pedometer should be used all day while doing usual daily activities. This will allow the individual to determine how many steps he or she is taking in an average day. After determining this number, weekly or monthly goals can be determined. It is a good idea to increase the number of steps being taken in small increments each week. For example, an individual who starts out taking 2,500 steps a day may decide to try to add 150 more steps each week.

Below are some easy ways to increase the number of steps taken each day:

Purpose

The purpose of a pedometer is to provide information about how many steps an individual has taken. Pedometers that track distance walked or calories burned can also be used to monitor this information. Many individuals who begin using a pedometer do so because they are curious about how many steps they are walking each day, or want to begin walking more steps each day.

Studies have shown that receiving feedback about performance helps lead to improved performance compared to receiving no feedback. Pedometers provide this feedback, and can be effective at encouraging increased daily activity. Pedometers that come with programs that allow for tracking performance over months or weeks may be especially effective, although individuals can also track their own progress on a chart or graph each day.

Risks

There are no risks specific to wearing a pedometer. However, before starting a new exercise regimen it is important to consult a doctor. Beginning an exercise routine after a sedentary lifestyle can increase the risk of heart attack or stroke.

QUESTIONS TO ASK YOUR DOCTOR

Benefits

There are a wide variety of health benefits to being more active. Regular walking can increase overall fitness level, increasing muscle mass, stamina, agility, and flexibility. It can also improve balance and reduce back pain and soreness. Walking is a good low-impact fitness activity that can be enjoyed by people of all ages and fitness levels.

Increased daily activity can help an individual lose weight or maintain a healthy body weight. Maintaining a healthy body weight helps reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes, and has been found to reduce the risk of some types of cancers. Regular physical activity such as walking can also help reduce cholesterol and strengthen the heart. Lung function has also been shown to improve. Some studies have shown that exercising regularly into the senior years can even help to reduce the risk of dementia, including Alzheimer's disease.

Preparation

There is no special preparation required to use a pedometer. Before using a new pedometer for the first time, the individual should read and follow any manufacturer's instructions for setup. Some pedometers have a set-up function that has the individual walk a specified number of steps. The pedometer then uses this to calculate a stride length to help with distance and other calculations.

Aftercare

There is no aftercare required for using a pedometer. After a brisk walk or run, the individual should stretch all of the major muscle groups to help prevent soreness.

See also Walking .

Resources

BOOKS

Nottingham, Suzanne, and Alexandra Jurasin. Nordic Walking for Total Fitness. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 2010.

Tuminelly, Nancy. Super Simple Walk and Run: Healthy and Fun Activities to Move Your Body. Edina, MN: ABDO Publishing Company, 2012.

Williamson, Peggie. Exercise for Special Populations. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer Health/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2011.

PERIODICALS

Hartvigsen, Jan, et al. “Supervised and Non-Supervised Nordic Walking in the Treatment of Chronic Low Back Pain: A Single Blind Randomized Clinical Trial.” BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders 1 (2010): 30.

Wilson, Lee-Ann M., et al. “The Association Between Objectively Measured Neighborhood Features and Walking in Middle-Aged Adults.” American Journal of Health Promotion 25, no. 4 (March/April 2011): E12–21.

WEBSITES

“Choosing the Right Device.” February 21, 2014. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/walking/art-20047880?pg=2 (accessed January 20, 2017).

Miller, Kelli. “Walking Faster May Lead to a Longer Life.” WebMD. January 4, 2011. http://www.webmd.com/healthy-aging/news/20110104/walking-faster-maylead-to-a-longer-life (accessed January 20, 2017).

ORGANIZATIONS

Aerobics and Fitness Association of America, 1750 E Northrop Blvd., Ste. 200, Chandler, AZ, 91403, (800) 446-2322, customerservice@afaa.com, http://www.afaa.com .

American Council on Exercise, 4851 Paramount Dr., San Diego, CA, 92123, (858) 576-6500, (888) 825-3636, Fax: (858) 576-6564, support@acefitness.org, http://www.fitness.gov .

American Nordic Walking Association, 827 Via De La Paz, Pacific Palisades, CA, 90272, (323) 244-2519, Fax: (310) 459-2842, info@anwa.us, http://www.anwa.us .

International Nordic Walking Federation, Jollaksentie 27 A, Helsinki, FIN-00850, Finland, info@inwa-nordic walking.com, http://www.inwa-nordicwalking.com .

Tish Davidson, AM

  This information is not a tool for self-diagnosis or a substitute for professional care.