Pedometers, or step counters, became widely popular in the 1980s and 1990s. With the invention of fitness trackers like Fitbits or Apple Watches, pedometers have become integrated into other devices and more widely used than every.
What is a Pedometer?
A pedometer is a device that counts each step you take by detecting the motion of your body. These devices typically use a mechanical sensor and software to count your steps. Today, devices like smart phones and smart watches can track your steps easily, without using a separate device. These devices use things like accelerometers or MEMS inertial sensors to detect your steps.
How Accurate are Pedometers?
The best pedometers are accurate to within about ± 5%. For this reason, we don’t recommend that you take a pedometers reading as 100% accurate, but use the number as a general reference or comparison over time.
Modern pedometers, like the ones found on Apple Watches, have more data points to use to determine how many steps you’ve taken so they are more accurate than older pedometers.
Use Your Phone To Track Your Steps
It’s not secret that most of us keep our phones with us throughout our entire day. Smart phones make it easy to keep track of your daily walking distance and steps.
If you have your phone in your pocket, it can track your walking distance throughout your day. This is probably more convenient than having a separate pedometer. I really enjoy monitoring my walking distance over time. This summer I’ve enjoyed trying to push my daily walking distance up over 7 miles per day.
How Do Pedometers Help People Achieve Their Goals?
So you may be thinking, just because someone has a device that tracks there steps doesn’t mean that they will suddenly achieve their fitness goals. However there are a few key benefits to using pedometers that we’ll dive into.
Tracking Activity Levels
We’ve found that if you ask most people how much they move during the day, they drastically overestimate or underestimate – or they simply have no clue. When you start tracking your daily activity level you at least have a baseline to know where you’re starting from.
If your goal is to lose weight, moving more throughout the day will help you burn more calories and lose fat. A pedometer is a great way of keeping track of how much you’re moving and monitoring your progress over time.
With this data you can have a hard number to monitor that will show you if you’re actually moving more. When many people start going to the gym, they often think that since they “worked out” at some point in the day they don’t need to keep moving for the rest of the day. If your daily step count continues to drop even as you think you’re working out more, you probably won’t make progress on your weight loss.
Motivation to Walk More
I also find that beyond just being an objective measure of daily activity, pedometers can be a great source of motivation. For example, let’s say you just started tracking your steps. You see that your daily steps are usually somewhere around 5,000. Having this number can be motivating to move a little bit more.
So you walk 5,000 steps per day for the first week, 6,000 the second week, and gradually increase your daily energy expenditure over time. Eventually you may find that you’re knocking out 10,000+ steps per day consistently, just because you realized you could push a little bit more and walk a little bit farther.
Walking 10,000 Steps Per Day
In the early 1960s, Japan was preparing to host the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. There was a wider movement in Japan to raise awareness about the importance of physical fitness and increasing activity levels.
The 10,000 steps goal isn’t perfect. If someone is currently walking very little, the 10,000 step goal can be overwhelming. However, increasing your steps from wherever you’re starting from will probably be beneficial to your overall health.
In 2010, a study of 60,000 corporate workers in 55 countries found that after eight months of aiming for 10,000 steps a day, 67% of participants reported an increase in fitness and energy levels. They also lost an average of 10 pounds (around 4.5 kg) each, just from walking, and many reduced their blood pressure as well.
Benefits of 10,000 Steps Per Day
Walking is one of my favorite activities. My daily goal is 10,000 steps but I often find myself going far beyond that goal. It’s easy to walk a lot day after day without building up fatigue or getting sore. Running on the other hand fatigues you more quickly, and then your body tends to compensate by burning less energy throughout the rest of your day.
Boosted Energy Levels
When you deliberately move more, you’ll find that your energy levels can improve quite a bit. Objects in motion tend to stay in motion. I’ve found that if I’m feeling sluggish or lackadaisical in my day, going for a walk can help get me energized.
This benefit can be especially useful for anyone trying to lose weight and get to the gym. If going to the gym seems daunting or overwhelming, try going for a walk to get your body moving and to build some momentum.
Walking is relaxing. The more you walk, the more relaxed you get. I’ve found that if I’m having an especially stressful day at work or with my family, I can simply take a little break and go for a walk. The combination of moving your body, exposure to sun, and just the mental break walking provides helps relax me.
Exercise is one of the best ways to relax your mind and body. Since walking is relatively low-impact and low-stress compared to higher intensity training, you can do it a lot throughout the day to maximize the relaxation benefits.
A Sense of Achievement
If you’re someone who has historically lived a sedentary lifestyle, even hitting a new record for steps in a day can provide a great sense of achievement.
Giving yourself a daily goal to work towards can help you build confidence and give you a sense of accomplishing something. I’ve found that this helps build momentum towards building a healthy fitness habit and routine.
Improved Blood Pressure
Getting active can help keep high blood pressure under control. Exercise reduces blood vessel stiffness so your blood can flow more easily. The lowered blood pressure effects can be most significant right after you work out.
Additionally, regular exercise can help improve your cardiovascular fitness. This means your heart gets stronger and can pump more blood with less effort. As a result, the forces on your arteries decreases which lowers your blood pressure.
Better Weight Management
Currently over 40 percent of adults in the United States are struggling with obesity. We clearly have a weight problem in the United States. This is due to chronic overeating combined with sedentary lifestyles. Walking helps burn more calories throughout the day which can help maintain a healthy weight.
Additionally, if you know you have to get up and walk 10,000 steps, you may start to make healthier lifestyle decisions to make walking easier.
More Exposure To The Sun
One of the biggest benefits I’ve gotten from walking 10,000+ steps per day is getting outside more and getting more sunlight exposure. Most of the western world is chronically depleted of vitamin D. When your skin is exposed to sunlight, it helps your body make vitamin D from cholesterol.
Another benefit of getting outside and walking during the day is improved sleep quality. Sunlight can help regulate your body’s sleep cycle by regulating your melatonin production.