Walking is a convenient and effective fitness activity that most people can participate in. Progress in a walking program is typically based on either distance or number of steps walked.
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Although more advanced pedometers calculate distance, the basic devices only provide total steps. Or, if they do allow you to input the calculated stride length, unless it's a pricey device, it won't last long. If you know a person's average stride length, you can convert steps into approximate distance.
Read more: Exercise: Walking Vs. Running
Strides or Steps
Stride length is often confused, or used interchangeably with, step length. Technically, however, they are not the same measurement. Step length is the distance between the heel strike of one foot and the heel strike of the opposite foot as you walk; stride length is the distance between the heel strike of the same foot.
For walking programs and pedometer measurements, although the measurement is referred to as stride length, it is actually the step length that is used.
Read more: Recommended Walking Distances
Average Stride Length
The University of Wyoming reports that there are approximately 2,000 steps in one mile, so the average step length is 2.6 feet or about 31 inches. For shorter people, the "average" could be considerably less —as low as 18 inches for someone who is 5 feet, 2 inches tall.
This means that for the average person, the approximate distance from the initial point of contact of your left heel and the initial point of contact of your right heel is just over 30 inches. The average stride length, or two steps, is just over 60 inches, or a little more than five feet.
Gender Plays a Part
Average stride length depends on many factors, including gender. The average step or stride length for women is smaller than for men.
According to the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, a woman's average step length is approximately 26 inches and her average stride length is 52 inches. A man's average step length is approximately 31 inches and his average stride length is 62 inches.
For walking programs, women are encouraged to use an average step length of 26 inches and men are encouraged to use an average step length of 30 inches for calculation purposes.
Calculating Your Stride Length
Rather than using average stride lengths, if you want to convert your pedometer steps into distance, calculate your actual stride length.
Make a mark on the ground and place your toes at the mark. The first step you take is step one. Fitbit recommends walking a total of 20 steps on a track where you know the distance you're walking; alternatively, you can mark the toe point of your twentieth step. Measure the distance between the two marks in feet and divide by 20 to get your stride length.
To get a more accurate stride length average, repeat the above exercise two to three times and average the recorded stride lengths.