Table of Contents > Alternative Modalities > Pedometer Print



Related terms
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Related Terms
  • 10,000 Steps Per Day, 10,000 Steps Program, exercise, manpo-kei, walking, Yashiro Hatano.

  • A pedometer is a battery-operated device that measures and records the number of steps an individual takes based on the body's movement. Walking has become a very popular form of exercise in recent years. Pedometers are the primary tools used to calculate steps walked. Most pedometers today also count the number of calories burned over the course of a walk.
  • Da Vinci drew models of machines that would count steps. Many years later, Thomas Jefferson, a strong advocate of walking for health and longevity, developed the first model of a pedometer after visits to France. Before the advent of inexpensive electronic technology, pedometers were much heavier and much less reliable. A relatively large pendulum within the pedometer counted steps, and functioned very similarly to a clock. Each step was registered as an interval, and caused the counting mechanism to advance one notch. Most pedometers produced an audible click with every step. In the mid 20th Century in the United States, the popularity pedometers increased, as they were marketed with cultural icons, such as the Lone Ranger. However, the use of pedometers did not become widespread until recent years.
  • The use of pedometers has surged in recent years with advent of the 10,000 Steps Per Day book and public health program. Dr. Yoshiro Hatano, a Japanese researcher, created the motto as an attempt to stem the rise in obesity within his country after a study to determine the number of calories burned while exercising. The 10,000 steps per day program quickly took hold as millions of Japanese citizens began wearing their "manpo-kei" to count the number of steps they took in a single day. Today, the use of a pedometer in conjunction with regular walking exercise is advocated by the Centers for Disease Control in the United States. The YMCA, former Attorney Generals, and other persons and institutions have taken to public advocacy of walking 10,000 steps a day with the help of the pedometer.

Theory / Evidence
  • Based on expert opinion, most regular exercise plans adjusted for the abilities and goals of the patient are about equally beneficial. The American Academy of Family Physicians recommends that patients choose exercise programs they will do consistently. The use of pedometers in conjunction with walking are frequently recommended by physicians as a viable exercise option for individuals who may not have the financial resources or time to abide by a more formulaic regimen to achieve physical fitness. Many experts attribute the popularity of pedometers to the fact that this inexpensive device records progress in a physical fitness regimen without the use of expensive, and often cost prohibitive, exercise equipment and gym memberships.
  • There is extensive scientific evidence suggesting that regular exercise offers major health benefits. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) the failure to exercise regularly is a significant precursor to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer. Exercising on a regular basis is one of the most inexpensive and easiest measures a person can take in order to reduce their risk and/or delay the onset of serious illnesses. The use of a pedometer in conjunction with walking or running is a tool that helps even the most out of shape individuals keep track of, and remain motivated about, their exercise regimens.
  • The type of exercise is not as important as a consistent exercise schedule. Most experts today agree that burning calories should not be the goal of exercise; rather, the achievement of overall physical fitness is the important factor in remaining healthy. Hence, the use of a pedometer to record regular exercise activity is advocated for patients who might otherwise not follow a plan to achieve physical fitness.

Author information
  • This information has been edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (

  1. Aittasalo M, Miilunpalo S, Kukkonen-Harjula K, et al. A randomized intervention of physical activity promotion and patient self-monitoring in primary health care.
  2. America's Walking.
  3. American Academy of Family Physicians.
  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  5. Tudor-Locke, Catrine. Manpo-Kei: The Art and Science of Step Counting. Victoria, Canada: Trafford Publishing. 2003.

  • Pedometers are usually worn on a pocket, the side of the belt, or sock. Most pedometers still use a small, inaudible pendulum to record each step, although models making use of accelerometers, a coiled spring mechanism, and a hairspring mechanism are also popular. An elevation of foot or hip registers as a step. This information is transmitted to the electronic display. Though pedometers are marketed in a variety of colors and shapes, they all function by using very similar technology. Today the devices are widely available and very inexpensive.
  • Many individuals prefer exercising in small chunks throughout the day to a 30 plus minute exercise; pedometers are ideal for these individuals, because they easily measure the distance walked over the entire day. Many people also enjoy keeping pedometers because steps add up quickly; patients derive a sense of personal accomplishment when they reach or exceed the suggested 10,000 steps per day. Pedometers have also gained in popularity because walking is a social activity that most people, regardless of age, physical illness or level of physical fitness are able to do.
  • The stride, or distance between steps, may vary from person to person; for example, the stride of a 10 year-old vs. the stride of a 6-foot tall person would be very different. The pedometer is a popular tool because it can be individualized to the user. The average stride for an adult woman is 2.2 feet, and the average stride length for men is 2.5 feet. Some individuals use pedometers to record the distance they have run. However, experts and even manufactures of the pedometer admit that such measurements are less reliable because of the increased variability in stride. Furthermore, accurate measurements may not result when taken at the very start or very end of a walk. The stride of these steps tends to be shorter than when taking a walk. Because estimating steps is not an exact science, it is suggested that potential users take several measurements of their stride using at least two different methods. Average the stride length of these results in order to set the pedometer most accurately
  • Wet foot measurements: The user finds or creates a puddle on an area that resembles their normal walking terrain. The walks at least 10 feet away from the puddle, and then walks at their normal speed towards and through the puddle. The user walks at least 25 steps out of the puddle. This method allows the user to measure the distance from the heel of the left footprint to the heel of the right footprint in inches. The user then divides the step length in inches by 12 inches. The resulting number is the user's stride length in feet.
  • Short distance measurements: The user measures out and marks a straight line of a known distance - generally 20 to 50 feet. The user walks at least 10 feet away from this line, and approaches the measured distance at normal walking speed. The user walks beside this line, and counts the number of steps taken from the start of the line to the end of the line. The user divides the number of feet in the pre-measured distance by the number of steps they take. The resulting number is the user's stride length in feet.
  • Long distance measurements: The user maps out a longer distance, usually about a mile, on a track or in their neighborhood. The user counts the number of steps from the start of the distance to the end of the distance. The user then divides the feet of the pre-measured distance by the number of steps they take. The resulting number is the user's stride length in feet.

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The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.

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