These days, walking 10,000 steps a day has become the accepted magic number, the one that puts you in the category of adults with an active lifestyle. It also represents the level of activity that most health experts say gives you the greatest number of health benefits.
Of course, keeping track of those steps requires either a level of focus and attention that borders on the obsessive, or you can get a pedometer (also known as a step counter).
Pedometers simply measure the number of steps you take every day, and versions of them have been around for about two hundred years. Today’s models range from the very inexpensive to high-quality models that offer greater accuracy. A pedometer is small, unobtrusive, and you simply keep it attached to your waistband to track your steps. Plus, they’re fun to check in on to check your progess throughout the day.
Now, there’s even a newer way to measure your steps, which is what I’m currently testing.
Yes, no surprise, there’s and app for that. In fact, there are dozens of pedometer apps that you can download to your smartphone. It’s no surprise, the free ones aren’t rated as highly as the ones you pay for. Like most modern pedometers, a pedometer app simply keeps track of steps by registering the vibration that occurs when your foot strikes the ground.
Certainly the various pedometer apps have their pros and cons, and I’m not attempting to write a comprehensive review of them. If you’d prefer a phone app to a standard pedometer, I’d suggest you look around and read the reviews.
The Consumer Reports website offers a pedometer buying guide that includes a list of the highest customer rated pedometers if you need some help wading through the plethera of options available. The Outdoor Gearlab website provides a pedometer star rating system as well as a comparison chart for honing in on a device that meets your specific walking goals. Livescience also has a pedometer comparison chart that breaks it down from least expensive to the most expensive brands.
If you are going to use a device that connects to your smartphone anyway then why not just use a smartphone pedometer app to begin with? There are a wide variety available with ratings and reviews to boot but be careful. Some smartphone pedometer apps can drain your phone battery really quickly. Especially if you are on a long walk and rely on your phone for emergency services you may find this option doesn't work for you. The C|Net website offers up and article about the best step counter for iPhone. Likewise, Androidpit.com offers up a great article that covers the best step counter apps for Android.
The one I’ve been testing requires that your phone stay on the app screen as it counts. That’s great if you’re going for a walk, but not so much if you want to track steps through out the day, morning to night. After all, sometimes you want to use your phone, you know, as a phone.
As pedometers measure your steps, you can easily chart your progress and reach goals you’ve established.
Recent studies have also found that people who use a pedometer are motivated to walk more. In a summary of 26 different studies by the Harvard Health Letter, people who used pedometers walked an average of 2,000 more steps a day than those who do not. And using a pedometer helped those people increase their level of physical activity by 27 percent.
Personally, I think the results of these kinds of studies are a foregone conclusion. If you’re wearing a pedometer, it already means you want to keep track of your movement, and presumably you’re trying to improve yourself. In other words, just clipping a pedometer to your waistband is not necessarily going to make you healthier or fit. However, using one does seem to encourage users to walk more and earn greater rewards.
Other suggestions from the Harvard Health Letter include setting and maintaining a step-count goal (again, the number 10,000 appears) and walking at a brisk pace of at least 3 mph.
How about you? Do you track your daily steps with a pedometer or pedometer app?