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Pedometer Walking Basics

Updated on January 22, 2011

What is a Pedometer?

A pedometer is a small accessory you can clip on your clothing or belt, or in some cases place in your pocket to count your steps. From basic step counters, to more advanced pedometers with features like calorie calculation, distance tracking and in some cases included software to help you track your progress using a computer, no two pedometers are alike.

A basic, inexpensive piezoelectric pedometer, loaded with features and voted BEST PEDOMETER on multiple websites including
A basic, inexpensive piezoelectric pedometer, loaded with features and voted BEST PEDOMETER on multiple websites including | Source

Introduction to Pedometers

There are two types of pedometers, spring levered and piezoelectric.

The spring-lever arm pedometer has a small arm inside that moves up and down in response to movement. Each time the arm passes a sensor it makes contact, closing an electrical circuit and registering a step. These pedometers must be worn vertical to function, and are best for people with a body mass index below 25. The best way to use this type of step counting device is to clip it to your belt.

The piezoelectric pedometer, also called the accelerometer uses a horizontal cantilevered beam with a weight on the end that compresses a piezoelectric crystal when you move. This compression generates a voltage that matches your movement and the voltage oscillations are used to record steps. Many piezoelectric pedometers are able to register steps from either a horizontal or vertical position, allowing users to put them in a pocket or clip them to their clothing in positions other than the belt, or wear them around the neck on a lanyard. This is especially useful for individuals with a body mass index of 25 or greater.

How to Use a Pedometer

Research has shown that pedometers work best at speeds of 3 mph or greater. One of the advantages of piezoelectric pedometers is their sensitivity, allowing them to have greater accuracy at slower speeds. Because they rely on the motion of your body, walkers who use pedometers should avoid shuffling their feet or ambling. Picking the feet up properly and taking steps will allow your pedometer to count steps.

Regardless of which type of pedometer you choose, you will find that there are a variety of features available. Many of the most basic pedometers are simple step counters, with no advanced features. They strive for reliability, accuracy and long battery life. More advanced pedometers are able to count not only steps, but calories burned (most of these require you to enter your weight or BMI) and distance travelled (these require you to measure your stride length and input this information.) Some pedometers also come with software and the ability to connect to a computer so that you can record your progress. Many pedometers have a memory that will record up to seven days activity, which is a convenient feature if you don't always have time to record your steps each day.

There are two ways to use your pedometer. One is to activate it first thing in the morning, and wear it all day so that it can record all of your activity for the day. The other is to attach the pedometer right before your walk or jog and wear it for the duration of your exercise time. It is a good idea to find out how many days worth of activity your pedometer will save in the memory (if it has this feature) and also whether your pedometer automatically resets, or must be manually reset before using each day. Many pedometers require you to push a button to reset the counter, but there are some, such as the Omron Hj-112 that automatically reset each day at midnight.

Tracking Your Progress

Even if you opt for the simple step counter, there are several options for recording your steps. Some people opt for a simple calendar devoted only to walking. Each night you can record the number of steps on your pedometer to keep track of your progress. There are also step logging charts and books available for purchase online and at sporting goods stores.

One of the newest and most popular ways to record your steps is through an online community or fitness tracking program. If you are a member of an online community such as you will find that there is an option to add a step tracker to your fitness record. If you are not involved in this type of community, you might like to join one that is devoted specifically to pedometer walking. A site such as provides free easy record keeping and tracking options without all of the extra features and frills of a larger community like Sparkpeople. For walkers who wish to record even more detail, keeping a fitness diary or an online blog might be a good solution. A blog will allow you to share your story and progress with others, while also providing unlimited space for recording as much detail as you choose, and sharing your personal thoughts.

Purchasing a Pedometer

Before purchasing a pedometer it is a good idea to decide which type will suit your needs, which features you would like and how much you are willing to spend. The price tag can range from ten dollars to 50 dollars for most pedometers. Websites such as offer a great selection of pedometers that you can purchase online, as well as user reviews and comments from people who have already purchased and tried the model you are looking for.

No matter which type of pedometer you select, the most important thing is to get moving!


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