Pedometers Increase Activity A study published in The Journal of American Medical Association, November 2007, determined that the average study participant who wore a pedometer to measure his or her daily activity level saw an increase of more than 2,100 steps per day. Participants were more likely to increase their activity level when they had a goal of reaching 10,000 steps per day. (Source: IDEA Fitness Journal, April 2008).
Prevention Magazine offers tips on how to get started with a walking program, how to set and stick to goals, and how to keep track of your progress. After purchasing a pedometer (see below for my recommendations), Prevention.com suggests the following:
1. Wear the pedometer for 3 days in a row. Write down the number of steps registered on the pedometer at the end of each of the 3 days. Add up those numbers, divide by 3, and that will give you your average number of steps per day.
2. Based on your average number of steps per day, pick a specific goal that will help you gradually increase your activity level towards the gold standard of 10,000 steps per day. For instance, if your average number of steps per day is 3,000, pick a reasonable and achievable increase -- aim for 3,500 steps per day. How are you going to achieve that increase? Again, pick a specific goal, e.g., commit to adding an additional 5 minutes of walking 3 times a week. You can get that just by parking two rows further away from your favorite store!
3. Keep track. Write down your daily step totals. This will help you notice patterns in your daily habits and help you stay motivated to walk more. On the days that I teach exercise classes, I easily reach 8,000 to 10,000 steps. On the days I work in an office, I struggle to get to 3,000 steps. Although my body sure feels the difference between the days it gets to move and the days it has to sit, I had no idea of this disparity in my daily activity level until I wore a pedometer for a week! Now on my "office" days, I make a point to fit in some kind of walk and stretch.
Buying a Pedometer Finding a pedometer is easy. Finding an easy-to-use and accurate pedometer is not. I've tried five or six different brands and so far the one I like the best is the Omron Walking Style, model HJ-112 (the model number may have changed since I purchased mine). You can clip it to your waist or put it in your pocket. It has several nice features (e.g., it counts your steps, tallies distance traveled and kcalories burned, keeps track of seven days' worth of steps), but I really only pay attention to the daily step count.
I bought mine in 2009 from Amazon.com on sale for $19.99 (regularly around $35). I've tried a slightly more expensive pedometer and several cheaper pedometers (ranging from $14 to free), and none of them seem to be as accurate as the Omron, except, ironically, one of the ones I got for free.
If you happen to have one of those free pedometers, give it a try. Generally the pedometers come with a battery already installed and you simply have to pull the protective tape off and your pedometer is good to go. You might want to give the pedometer a quick test run: Attach the pedometer to your waist band (per the instructions) then count your steps as you walk for several minutes. Compare your count to the pedometer -- if the two numbers are within 5 or 10 or so steps of one another, your free pedometer will do just fine. If the two numbers are wildly different, try it one more time. If they still don't match at all, consider shopping for a new pedometer. The replacement battery for the Omron is about $5 and the more you walk, the faster the battery burns out, but that's a small price to pay for good health.