Pedometer FAQs

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 bod, with the clip against your body.
  • It should be positioned 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.