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Fitness: Using a Pedometer or Step Counter

Introduction

Experts say that to stay fit it is important to be physically active for at least 2½ hours a week. Walking is one of the best things you can do to be more active. You don't have to do your walking all at once. You can split it up. It's fine to walk in blocks of 10 minutes or more throughout your day and week.

For most people, walking is an easy and low-cost way to get moving and stay fit. Using a pedometer or step counter can help you track the number of steps you take each day. Then you can set goals to take more steps and be more active.

  • Using a pedometer or step counter is an easy and fun way to track how active you are. It adds up all the steps you take during the day.
  • Using a pedometer can remind you to walk more. A quick check may show that you need more steps for the day.
  • Using a pedometer can help you set goals to take more steps in a day. You may need to find creative ways to add more steps, but walking more will help you get more exercise, feel better, and stay healthy.

How can you get the best use out of a pedometer?

Make wearing your pedometer a habit. Put it on first thing in the morning as you are getting dressed. Leave it on until you go to bed. Follow these steps to get the best use out of your pedometer:

Step one: Find your activity level

  • For the first week, go about your usual routine. Don't change how active you are yet.
  • Write down your steps each day in a step diary. This will give you a starting record of how active you are.
  • Look over this record for the week to see where you can add steps to your daily routine.

Step two: Set goals

  • Set a goal for the second week. At first, try to add 300 to 500 steps to your day. Then work toward 2,000 more steps a day. This adds about 1 mile, or 20 minutes of walking, to your routine.
  • Increase your walking in simple ways. These suggestions can get you started, and you can probably think of other ways. To add more steps to your everyday activities:
    • Park farther than usual from your workplace or a store (or get off the bus or subway before your stop), and walk the extra distance.
    • Take the stairs rather than the elevator.
    • Walk a lap inside the grocery store before you start shopping.
    • Walk instead of driving for short trips. Walk to school, work, the grocery store, a friend's house, or a restaurant for lunch.
  • Record your steps each day.

Step three: Keep moving

  • Check how well you did from week one to week two.
  • Set a new goal for the next week.
  • Work your way up to walking at least 10,000 steps each day.

References

Other Works Consulted

  • Bravata DM, et al. (2007). Using pedometers to increase physical activity and improve health. JAMA, 298(19): 2296–2304.

Credits

Current as of: September 10, 2020

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Elizabeth T. Russo MD - Internal Medicine

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