Using a Pedometer

Research has shown that pedometers are effective tools in encouraging a healthy and active lifestyle. Walking is often an overlooked exercise, as it looks ordinary and easy, but it can be the tool you need to achieve the lifestyle goals you are looking for.

With a pedometer, people can learn to set and achieve daily exercise targets. Read on to find out more:

What is a Pedometer?
A pedometer is a small device that measures the number of steps you take.

How does it work?
The pedometer has a small lever arm inside, that moves up and down as your hip moves, thus counting your steps. It also counts movements such as bending over to tie your shoes – all movement counts!

Can it also measure distance?
Some pedometers also have a distance feature. This requires you to measure the average length of your step, and enter the information into the device. This is usually done by counting the number of steps it takes you to walk 100m and then calculating the average length of your step. It is important to walk normally when measuring your steps, at the pace you would normally walk. When we speed up, our stride lengthens, and when we walk slowly, our stride is shorter.

How do I wear the pedometer?
It is most accurate if the pedometer is worn on the hip – normally on the waist belt of your trousers or skirt, in line with your knee-cap.
If you are not wearing anything with a waist belt, you can also wear it under your clothes, on the waistband of your underwear!
It is important to make sure the pedometer remains upright, as it will not measure accurately otherwise.

How to make sure it is working properly:
1. Clip on the pedometer
2. Walk 100 steps without watching the counter
3. Check the number of steps recorded to see how accurate it is. Your pedometer should be 85% accurate, or measure between 85-115 steps for every 100 taken. 
4. Some models have a sensitivity setting that you can adjust if it is too sensitive, or not sensitive enough.
5. You can also experiment by attaching it in a different place to see where it is the most accurate for you.

Why count steps?
It has been shown that most people take about 4,000–6,000 steps per day, while inactive individuals only take between 1,000-3,000 steps per day. With the onset of obesity and health issues in our population, a pedometer provides a simple way of measuring your level of physical activity, while performing an exercise that most people can do – walking.

How many steps do I need to take?
The aim is to work up to 10,000 steps per day. This equals about 8km, or an hour and a half of walking, and is in line with the Canadian Physical Activity Guideline of at least 30-60 minutes of additional activity most days of the week. If you have been averaging 3,000 steps, it is important to work up to this goal gradually, and to realize that this amount of steps may not be recommended for some members of the population (older adults, those with chronic diseases, or children).

How many calories is that?
Walking 10,000 steps will burn between 2,000 and 3,500 calories/week (depending on body weight) – that would be the equivalent to working off the calories from four Starbuck’s Frappuccinos!!

How do I start?
Wear the pedometer for three days – ideally two workdays and a non-work day. Calculate the average steps over these three days, and gradually work up from there. A safe daily increase to aim for is a 500 step increase per day, applied each week.
For example, if you are averaging 4,000 steps currently, aim for 4,500 steps a day your first week, then 5,000 steps per day the next week, etc. You don’t have to stop at 10,000 steps/day – the more active you are, the quicker you will achieve your health goals, whether they be to feel better, lose weight or improve fitness. You will be amazed at how quickly the steps add up.

Can I run with it? 
Yes, pedometers are designed to work while running as well – just make sure it is attached securely!

Easy ways to increase your daily steps
* Park the car a few blocks away from your destination, and walk the rest of the way.
* Get off the bus a few stops before the one you need, and enjoy the walk!
* Take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator.
* Take a walk with friends instead of meeting for coffee.
* Go for an evening stroll after dinner and enjoy the time alone, or catching up with family.
* Take a lunch break on the move and get some fresh air.
* Stop using the remote control
* March in place while you are on the phone.

Purchasing a pedometer
Pedometers come in all shapes and sizes. Simple devices simply measure steps, while others also include features such as time, alarm, distance, calories, etc. Work out what information you would like, and find one with the features that suit you best.
A protective cover can help avoid any accidental resetting of the device while you are using it, and a secure clip makes sure that it does not come off easily. 
Check that the lighting display is easy to read both inside and out if you are planning to walk outdoors.
It is worth buying one that is not the cheapest you find – quality is definitely related to price, and buying an inaccurate device will be a frustrating waste of time. Quality pedometers cost around $20-$30 – visit your local running and walking store to see which one they recommend.  

Before starting out, please ensure:
* You consult your doctor before starting any fitness program.
* You wear a good pair of shoes (check out the SportMedBC Walking Shoes article in the Library for more information).
* You take a gradual approach to increasing your steps.
* You balance your physical activity with sensible food choices and a healthy diet – exercise alone is not enough!
* You stop if you feel any pain or physical discomfort, and see your doctor.


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