Do Pedometers Really Help You Stay Fit?

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Smaller than clip-on cell phones that attach to the side of your belt, pedometers are useful fitness devices that count the number of steps you take every day.

They encourage the concept of being more physically active through one of the easiest exercises known to man – walking.

But do pedometers really help you stay fit?

It’s easy to overlook the need for having an activity tracker that just counts your daily steps when there are other ways to make walking more motivating such as having a workout buddy, choosing different routes, or listening to music. However, research has found that pedometer-based programs tend to be successful at increasing physical activity.

One 2007 study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine investigated the outcome of adding pedometers to a walking fitness program. Test subjects aged 30-65 who exercised 3 times a week volunteered in the study. The participants were split into three categories, those on a walking program with and without a pedometer, along with individuals who just continued with their usual exercises of choice. The pedometer test subjects were found to exercise more often and longer than participants who did not track their fitness activity.

So, why do pedometers work to help users become more active? Well, their effectiveness in aiding fitness goals is no rocket science and can be attributed to the following benefits.

1) Assistance in Setting Goals

One of the unique benefits that pedometers offer is assisting users to set fitness training goals for a walking program. You can set many goals using a step counter depending on your fitness level and desired training outcome. A common goal, however, is 10,000 steps a day, which is equivalent to walking about 5-miles daily. While many people find this number daunting at first, reaching it or simply coming close becomes more realistic when they realize that the average person takes about 5,000 steps a day. Since pedometer’s are flexible in terms of goal setting, they will keep you motivated to continue exercising after you decide to work towards an achievable target.

2) Encouraging Accountability in Fitness Training

Pedometers require you to monitor your progress on a daily basis or every time you hit the streets for your brisk walking sessions. If you were to miss a session for whatever reason, this will be reflected in your training statistics. A pedometer will therefore hold you accountable while you continuously track your own progress. If on a certain day, for instance, you fall a few steps short of the target, you will be more likely to forgo watching television after dinner and go for a walk instead.

3) Strategic Planner for Breaking Fitness Plateaus

Another reason why many people achieve success with pedometers is the fact that they can use these devices to reevaluate fitness goals. Let’s say that for instance you started to use a pedometer to lose weight by walking a given number of steps daily. With proper nutrition and consistency in your workout program, you will probably lose some weight while working towards your target. If after some time your weight loss progress stalls, a pedometer can help you break the plateau by setting a higher number of steps to walk per day and burn more calories.

While pedometers can be instrumental in increasing the chances of success when walking for fitness, keep in mind that they will not work alone. Chances of maintaining fitness will increase if you combine the use of pedometers with healthy living practices such as eating balanced diets, staying hydrated and getting adequate sleep.

Are Pedometers Accurate?

Pedometers are convenient fitness tools to have when tracking performance during walking and jogging exercises. They will automatically log how many steps you take during exercise, saving you the time and energy it would require to count every stride on your own. The level of accuracy that a pedometer delivers is of critical performance considering that you will rely on data taken from this device to reach a predetermined goal in your fitness training. If, for instance, your pedometer over counts steps taken by up to 30%, that means that you will be putting less effort in your training, which could set back certain fitness goals like reaching a target weight loss or building endurance. In the same breadth, a pedometer that falls shy of the actual number of steps that you walk by a large margin will cause you to workout harder than necessary. This therefore begs the question: are pedometers accurate?

What You Need to Know About Pedometer Accuracy

Most pedometers give a fairly close estimation of the number of steps a person takes during daily activities. You can also perform a simple test on your own by manually counting a small number of steps then stop to compare your tally with the pedometer reading. Remember to reset the count to zero while performing this test. Usually, a margin of error in the range of ± 10% is considered within accurate range. However, sometimes a pedometer can be entirely off in its readings. The reason for this is that several factors may affect its accuracy.

Factors That Affect Accuracy in Pedometers

To minimize the margin of error when using a pedometer, it is important to know some of the aspects that may compromise this device’s accuracy. Factors that determine a pedometer’s accuracy or lack thereof include:

Type of Design

Pedometers come in different styles, and how they are designed affects their effectiveness and durability. Spring-loaded pedometers either have a tiny bar or coil that counts steps. They are very economical but the tradeoff is that these models tend to lose accuracy when the spring-loaded bar or coil is knocked out of place. There are also electric pedometers that do not rely on a spring action mechanism to work. Such models maintain accuracy for much longer periods, as they have no moving parts that can malfunction or wear out.

Attachment Style

Whether you wear a pedometer on your wrist, arm, waist or neck can affect how correct its readings are. Researcher have found that pedometers worn like a pendant or left in pockets tend to over count the number of steps taken due to excess jiggling. Pedometers are at their most accurate state when worn on the waist and kept in line with the kneecap. This position makes it easy for the pedometer to count steps as the hip rises and lowers with every stride.

Terrain and stride length

Short steps tend not to register on a pedometer. You may take short steps when walking on tough terrain such as going downhill or due to low fitness levels.

Now that you know about aspects that affect a pedometer’s accuracy, you should be able to choose one that will give fairly accurate readings and also avoid some of the user-induced errors that lower accuracy. Generally, expensive pedometers made by a reputable brand are likely to be more accurate than cheaper ones you pick up at a trade fair. However, it does not make sense to go for high-end models that come with GPS or other fancy features you do not intend to use. To make an informed buying decision, read up customer reviews on the web about various pedometer brands and makes. Take your time to make comparisons as well to determine which models on the market deliver the best results based on user testimonials.

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