Whether you’re starting on a new fitness regime or simply trying to gauge how healthy your current activity level is, a pedometer can help track your progress by counting the number of steps you take in a day, track the distance you traveled and estimate the number of calories you’ve burned. What features do you need in a pedometer? Pronto’s Pedometer Buying Guide will answer this question and steer you toward the pedometer that meets your needs.
Spring-loaded pedometers are the most basic and easiest to use, but must remain vertical to ensure accuracy. Piezoelectric pedometers cost more but provide a greater degree of accuracy and can be used in any position.
Verify your pedometer’s accuracy manually and return any pedometer that varies by more than 5%, or 5 of every 100 steps. Look for a pedometer that lets you program your stride length unless you’re of average height. Don’t rely on a pedometer for calorie counts, as pedometers use general formulas that don’t take your metabolism into consideration.
Power walkers and walking enthusiasts should look for pedometers with built-in heart rate monitors and speed indicators. If you want the best measurement of distance walked, choose a pedometer with GPS tracking technology, but be aware that buildings, mountains and dense forest cover can interfere with the satellite signal these pedometers use.
If you’re walking to rid yourself of a “spare tire,” avoid belt- or waist-mounted pedometers that can tilt or be triggered by waist movement. If you choose a pedometer that is carried in a holster, make sure it has a safety loop so you won’t lose it if it falls out while you’re walking.
Talking pedometers connect to your headphones and will speak of your results at regular or preprogrammed intervals. Nighttime walkers should choose a pedometer with a backlit display. USB connections let you connect your pedometer to your PC to track data over time or share it on the Web. If you’re in training, look for a pedometer with a stopwatch function.
Global Positioning System, a method of determining the position of an object on Earth by triangulating the signals of satellites in geosynchronous orbit. GPS can be used to accurately measure distance traveled, although it can be affected by stone or concrete structures or dense vegetation that block the satellite signal.
An electronic device that counts the number of steps you take by registering vibrations.
Also known as an accelerometer, this system calculates the frequency and the intensity of vibrations by measuring the degree of deformity in a fixed-mass object, usually a small flexible bar or band. Piezoelectric pedometers are more accurate because they can compensate for heavier steps.
A mechanical pedometer that measures vibrations through a lever mounted just above a spring. These pedometers are best used in a vertical position and may be less accurate because heavy steps and body movement can sometimes be counted as additional steps.
The distance you walk with each step, used by pedometers to calculate distance traveled. The quickest way to determine your stride length is to walk 10 steps, measure the distance traveled with a tape measure and divide by 10. Note that some pedometers rely on step length for calculations, which is the distance from the back of the forward heel to the back of the behind heel at your full stride length.
For general good health, it’s recommended that you walk at least 10,000 steps per day. Much of this happens during regular daily activities, but if you’re tied to a desk or lead a sedentary lifestyle, you may not reach the recommended daily steps on a consistent basis. If you’re walking to lose weight, the number of recommended daily steps jumps to 15,000 per day, with 3,000 of them taken as part of a single, brisk walk. Pedometers tell you whether you are meeting this general health guideline and track how far you have to go to meet your goals.
A pedometer’s basic function is to count the steps you take. It does this by measuring vibrations using piezoelectric or spring-loaded technology.
High-tech piezoelectric pedometers offer the greatest accuracy, but their high price has kept many manufacturers from embracing the technology. Piezoelectric pedometers measure the deformity of a fixed-mass gauge. Stronger steps cause the gauge to deform more, which prevents these pedometers from measuring a single heavy step as several steps. Praised as the most accurate pedometers available, piezoelectric models can be used in any position and only experience accuracy problems if you walk at speeds of less than 2 miles an hour. If you need the highest level of accuracy, or if you’re a lead-footed walker, you’ll get the best results from a piezoelectric pedometer.
Spring-loaded pedometers are mechanical by nature. In a spring-loaded pedometer, a lever is suspended over a spring, which makes contact and registers a step when it’s jostled. Other movements can trigger the pedometer, and heavy steps can register twice. These pedometers are less expensive and work best when they’re worn in a vertical position that reduces the chance of incidental contact between the spring and the lever.
Accuracy is the single-most important feature in a pedometer, but it’s a fact of life that all pedometers have a varying margin of error. Contributing factors include tilting a spring-loaded pedometer or wearing your pedometer incorrectly. When you first get your pedometer, verify its results manually. An acceptable level of variance is less than 5%, or 5 out of every 100 steps. Keep in mind that pedometers are most accurate at walking speeds over 2.5 miles per hour.
Pedometers that track distance and calories are virtually guaranteed to have errors in those measurement categories. These calculations are based on entering an accurate stride length, which is difficult to measure because this changes with your pace. When you walk faster, you tend to take longer strides that reduce the accuracy of the distance measurement. Choosing a pedometer that lets you program in your stride length helps to reduce these variations, and anyone who’s not of average height should choose a programmable pedometer to get the most accurate step count.
Calorie calculation is equally prone to error, as it may not incorporate the difficulty of the activity—simple walking versus strenuous aerobics, for example. In addition, the equations used to measure calories are preset and can’t be tailored to your individual metabolism. If you’re serious about tracking distance and calories, look for pedometers that differentiate between light and heavy exercise.
Serious walkers and fitness enthusiasts should look for pedometers with built-in heart rate monitors and speed indicators. Many pedometers can track distance traveled, and the most accurate method is via GPS tracking. Look for GPS tracking only if you’ll be using your pedometer primarily outdoors, away from tall buildings and dense tree cover, as the satellite connection that powers GPS is compromised in these conditions.
Think about how you plan to wear your pedometer. Most will slip into your pocket or clip to a belt. Some pedometers can be carried in an arm or hip holster. Look for comfort and remember that a pedometer works best in a vertical position. If you’re looking to get rid of that spare tire around your waist, avoid spring-loaded pedometers with belt clips or waist holsters, as these can easily slide out of a vertical position or react to the extra movement around your waist while you walk.
Pedometers with flip-down faceplates are less likely to be reset accidentally while you walk. Open-faced pedometers are less bulky, but you’ll need to remove them from their holsters or read their data upside down. If you’re considering a pedometer with a holster case, choose one that includes a safety strap so you don’t lose your pedometer if it falls out of the holster.
Talking pedometers connect to your headphones and announce step count, distance traveled or time elapsed on command or at preprogrammed intervals. Nighttime walkers should choose a pedometer with a glowing or backlit display. If you’re a competitive walker, look for a pedometer with a stopwatch function for interval timing.
Don’t forget the batteries. Pedometers don’t drain batteries too quickly, but it’s a good idea to get some rechargeable batteries and a charger, which saves money over the long run compared with disposable batteries.
If you’d like to keep track of your data on a long-term basis (and pretty it up with charts and graphs), look for a pedometer with a USB connection. This lets you hook your pedometer to your PC so you can save the data for each walk, track results over time or share it online for that extra motivational boost. As an added bonus, some USB pedometers have built-in rechargeable batteries that power up from your PC.