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There’s no better way to tally your daily steps than with a pedometer, which tracks each time your feet hit the pavement. Using one helps you get a sense of your physical activity throughout the day, says Daniel Destin, A.C.S.M., exercise physiologist and manager of the Shipley Fitness Center at Newton-Wellesley Hospital in Massachusetts. He tells clients to aim for 7,000 to 10,000 steps each day. “Even if they don’t reach their target, it gets them to move more,” Destin says.
That motivation from a pedometer—the competition to walk just a bit further each day—is a powerful force. In fact, a large review of research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that people using a pedometer were more active, had healthier weights, and decreased their blood pressure compared to those who didn’t.
What to look for in a pedometer
While there are plenty of souped-up fitness trackers available, sometimes simple is best—and most affordable. You most likely already have a pedometer in your pocket: Smartphones typically have apps to track your steps walked and stairs climbed, along with distances, says James Shapiro, a NASM-certified personal trainer.
However, all that tracking eats up battery life and requires you to take your phone absolutely everywhere (including on trips to and from the bathroom). On top of that, previous research shows that the results from smartphone apps in comparison to pedometers might not be as accurate while tracking slower speeds.
Accuracy is one of the most important factors to consider when purchasing a pedometer, says Destin. To double check if it’s tracking the right amount of steps, simply clip your pedometer onto your waistband (line it up directly below your armpit), set the device to zero, and walk 100 steps, counting them as you go. At the end, your pedometer should be within that range, give or take five steps. Here’s what else to keep in mind when looking for a pedometer:
✔️ Battery life: You can choose between a device with a small, circular replaceable battery or a rechargeable battery. If the thought of needing to charge another device is exhausting, opt for a replaceable battery. For many people, needing to charge a device every few days gets in the way of regular use.
✔️Calorie counters and activity trackers: If overall fitness and weight loss is your goal, look for these two functions on your pedometer. An activity tracker lets you know if you’re reaching the minimum physical activity guidelines for overall health, says Destin. (That’s 150 minutes of moderate activity each week, or 75 minutes of vigorous activity each week.) Meanwhile, tracking the calories you burn reveals how hard you’re exercising and what you need to do to maintain or meet your weight loss goals, he adds.
✔️A 7- to 30-day log: The log will allow you to see your progress. To Destin, this is almost more important than your actual steps. “I have people focus on their step trend rather than the exact count. I ask them: ‘Are you doing more than yesterday or last week or last month?’” he says.
✔️Display: Look for a display that’s easy for you to read and functionality that makes sense to you. Overly fussy devices may come with exciting features, but ultimately, if it’s too complicated to follow, you won’t bother engaging with the features (or device!).
The very best pedometer for you will always be the one you wear consistently, so to help you wade through the options, we've rounded up our favorites in a variety of categories.
The best pedometers to track your steps
Omron Alvita Optimized Pedometer
👟 Best Overall
Destin’s wife actually uses an Omron pedometer, and she’s in good company. It's got more than 2,500 positive reviews and 4 stars on Amazon. The device is super accurate—it’ll track your steps whether it’s clipped on your belt, tied on a lanyard around your neck, or slipped inside a pocket or purse. The Omron also has several step-counting modes, distinguishing between aerobic steps (more than 60 steps per minute) and walking steps. The pedometer tracks how far you walk and how many calories you burn as well. It resets each night at midnight (so you start each day with a clean slate) and stores your daily steps and activity for seven days.
3D FitBud Simple Step Counter
This pedometer is a no-frills way of tracking your steps. If you want to skip the extra features, apps, and set-up, this step counter is ready to go as soon as you open the box. No need to worry about accuracy, since the 3D FitBut uses sensor technology to read your steps in any position or angle. You can take it with you anywhere, since it comes with a clip and lanyard. On top of that, the display is massive and simple to read. The pedometer also goes to “sleep” when you’re not moving—a total win if you want an extra-long battery life.
Keep this tracker on 24/7 and you’ll learn all about the number of steps you take, the calories you burn, your active minutes, and even your sleep quality in a day. “The only pedometer I have ever used is Fitbit and I thought its element of competition among peers and daily and weekly challenges were great—especially for new exercisers,” says Lyuda Bouzinova, ACE-certified personal trainer and co-founder of Mission Lean. Connect with friends on the Fitbit app, and you can compete to see who hits the most steps, along with other fitness goals. Bonus: It reminds you to move each hour, so you won't stay stagnant while working from home for too long! You’ll need to charge this about every five days, either using the USB port on a computer or USB wall charger.
OZO Fitness SC2 Digital Pedometer
👟 Easy to Read
With its large numbers and simple screen, you’ll be able to see your step count for the day at a glance—without fumbling for your reading glasses or cycling through a confusing series of settings. The OZO Fitness SC2 has a 7-day log, and tracks steps, distance, and calories burned. You won’t have to remember to charge it, since this pedometer comes with a battery that lasts a year.
3DTriSport Walking Pedometer
The Realalt 3DTriSport Walking 3D Pedometer tracks your steps, distance covered, calories, and time spent exercising. The screen size is slightly smaller than the OZO Fitness SC2, but this battery-operated pedometer has a longer activity tracker (30 days, as opposed to the OZO’s 7). It also allows you to set a step goal. Having one is important, notes Bouzinova. When you meet it, you’ll have “a feeling of accomplishment that helps with motivation,” she says. The 3DTriSport comes with both a clip and a lanyard, but for the most accurate step-counting, Destin advises placing pedometers on your hip, directly below your armpit.
LETSCOM Fitness Activity Tracker HR
Clip-on pedometers don’t work for everyone—maybe your outfits don’t lend themselves to waistbands, or a small, clip-on item is likely to be forgotten on your bedside table instead of being worn. If that’s the case, a pedometer that sits on your wrist like a watch is a good solution. The LETSCOM Fitness Activity Tracker HR has a few more features than many of the clip-on options: You can track your sleep (since you can wear it comfortably at night, unlike a clip-on option) along with your heart rate. For all that extra functionality, the LETSCOM still comes in at just under $30 in a variety of fun colors. Once a week, you’ll need to charge its battery.
Garmin vívofit Activity Tracker
👟 Data Visualizer
For some people, the spirit of competitiveness or a love of data makes them want to be able to compare their step count over wide swathes of time—more than the typical 30-day memory on basic pedometers. Enter smartphone apps, which track data and creates engaging visualizations so you can see your steps over time (as well as your sleep and other exercise activity). With the Garmin vívofit 3, you can sync the data on the device to a free smartphone app (for both iOS and Android) through Bluetooth—so no cords required!
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