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.
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.
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.
- The Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport; Non-traditional wearing positions of pedometers: Validity and Reliability of The Omron HJ-203-ED Pedometer Under Controlled and Free-Living Conditions
- Fitness and Wellness: A Personalized Program; Werner W.K. Hoeger and Sharon A. Hoeger
- Journal of Physical Activity and Health; Comparison of GT3X Accelerometer and YAMAX Pedometer Steps/Day in a Free-Living Sample of Overweight and Obese Adults
- American Heart Association: Frequently Asked Questions About Physical Activity