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How Accurate are Pedometers?

by
author image Lisa M. Wolfe
A mother of two and passionate fitness presenter, Lisa M. Wolfe had her first fitness article published in 2001. She is the author of six fitness books and holds an Associate of Arts in exercise science from Oakland Community College. When not writing, Wolfe is hula-hooping, kayaking, walking or cycling.
How Accurate are Pedometers?
A hiker checking her activity on a pedometer watch. Photo Credit gregory_lee/iStock/Getty Images

Many schools and workplaces promote the 10,000 steps a day program encouraged by the American Heart Association. You do not have the time or the energy to count each step, so wearing a pedometer is an easy way to monitor your activity level. The accuracy of this small tracking device depends on the quality, placement and speed of your activity.

Do It Yourself

A pedometer that is more expensive is more accurate than a free pedometer you pick up from a health fair. You can test the accuracy of your pedometer with a quick 50 steps. Secure the pedometer to your waistband and reset the counter to zero. Count your steps as you walk and continue at a brisk pace until you reach 50 steps. Look at the pedometer to see how many steps it recorded. If your pedometer says anywhere from 45 to 55 steps, which is within 10 percent of the actual number, it is considered accurate.

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Out of Pocket

Most pedometers are accurate when worn on the waistband positioned directly above your knee cap. Inaccuracy usually occurs when pedometers are placed in pockets, where the excess jiggling can lead to more steps recording than you've walked. According to the September 2012 issue of "Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport," wearing a pedometer around the neck like a necklace also leads to poor accuracy.

Between the Two

Pedometers may be a piece of equipment on their own, but can also be combined with another gadget that records speed, known as an accelerometer. A comparison of the two types was done at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Louisiana. Researchers Barriera and others report that the pedometer recorded more steps than the accelerometer. The average difference between the two when used for the same activities was up to 30 percent. For example, if you wore both gadgets and took 1,000 steps, the accelerometer may have only recorded 700 steps. Researchers report that the compared with the pedometer, the accelerometer was accurate only 25 percent of the days.

Accuracy Increase

A pedometer is most accurate when worn on the waist and directly in line with your knee. When you walk, the movement of your hip will raise and lower the pedometer causing it to record your steps. According to the book "Fitness and Wellness: A Personalized Program," inaccuracy can still occur at slower walking speeds. If your walking speed is less than 30 minutes per mile, or 2.0 miles per hour, your hip movement may not be enough to trigger the spring inside the pedometer, and all of your steps may not be recorded.

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References

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