A motivational tool that can help you set goals and measure progress may be what you need to get fitness results faster. A pedometer measures the number of steps you take. It works by counting electronic pulses put out every time you step, and multiplying the number of pulses by your pre-programmed step length. Using a pedometer may also motivate you to walk more, according to a 2008 analysis published in "Annals of Family Medicine." Setting exercise goals that include using your pedometer regularly can help you achieve fitness goals one step at a time.
Types of Pedometers
A simple pedometer that just counts your steps is ideal for you if you're on a budget. A digital pedometer can be more motivating and useful for setting and achieving your goals, as it also measures calories and miles walked, and even monitors your heart rate. Most models are also capable of analyzing the data to track your progress over time.
Older models of pedometers typically must be worn on the waistband to count your steps accurately, whereas the more advanced digital pedometers can be thrown in your pocket. When you get a new pedometer, you'll need to use the instructions that come with it to set your step length, which is the distance between heel strikes while walking.
Establish your Baseline
Your baseline steps are the average number of steps you take during a regular day. Most people take between 3,000 and 4,000 steps a day. To figure your baseline number of steps, wear your pedometer all day for three consecutive days while going about your daily routine. If you usually work out or do sports training, don't count this when calculating your baseline. Find the average number of steps you took in those three days by adding them all up and divide that sum by three. You can use this baseline as a starting point for determining how much to increase your steps to meet your goals.
Setting your Goals
Set your first goal just slightly above your baseline number of steps. Then, continue to raise your goal number of steps each day by just a little. According to the website of Fitness magazine, an optimal goal for a daily number of steps for the average person is 10,000, which equates to about 5 miles of walking. Start at your baseline and slowly work your way up to 10,000 steps a day. Choose a percentage by which you'll increase your steps each day, for an average increase of 10-percent each week. Keep a log book or computer document to record your daily number of steps and track your progress if you're not using a digital pedometer that logs data for you.
Fitting in More Steps in Your Day
When increasing the number of steps you take each day, it can become hard to fit in enough steps in your day, especially on a day that you don't work out. Avoid elevators and escalators, so you can take steps while climbing the stairs. If you spend time doing housework, you could take several trips to carry laundry or other household items instead of carrying everything at once. If you spend time talking on the phone, you could walk around while talking instead of sitting still. When you park your car at work or at the grocery store, park farther from the building. Better yet, try to walk to any places within walking distance instead of driving your car or taking public transit. Best of all, spend more time with your significant other and friends by taking them with you on walks.
Lindsay Haskell enjoys writing about fitness, health, culture and fashion. She is a contributor for "Let's Talk Magazine" and "The Wellesley News." Haskell is completing her B.A. in philosophy at Wellesley College. She's also a fiction writer whose work can be read online.