How Counting Your Steps Motivates You to Walk More

Close up of the Fitbit Surge10,000 steps congratulations message
Wendy Bumgardner

How many steps do you take per day? How many should you take? If you wear a pedometer or fitness band, will it really motivate you to walk more?

Take More Steps for a Longer, Healthier Life

While the goal of 10,000 steps per day is often listed as standard, there has been evidence that there are health benefits for getting any amount of physical activity compared with being inactive. Adding even 2,000 more steps (about 1 mile) of walking above the 3,000 to 4,000 baseline steps each day is associated with lower all-cause mortality. A goal of 6,000 steps per day ensures you are getting at least some activity per day. A goal of 8,000 to 10,000 steps will get you to the recommended level of 30 minutes per day of moderate-intensity physical activity to reduce health risks.

10,000 Steps for Weight Management

The amount of exercise recommended to keep weight off is 60 minutes or more most days of the week. That is equal to the number of extra steps needed to achieve 10,000 steps per day. Add walking sessions of at least 10 minutes at a brisk walking pace to achieve moderate-intensity physical activity and aim for an hour a day.

Pedometers Help Motivation

Pedometers used to get a bad rap because they are not accurate for measuring distances for most people due to uneven strides. It can be helpful to stop thinking about logging distance and start thinking about logging steps. Wearing a pedometer all day, you can see how many steps you are really achieving. Aim towards a goal of 6,000 or 10,000 steps a day. A review of pedometer research studies found that people who set a goal with a pedometer were more likely to increase their physical activity, lose weight and lower their blood pressure.

Suddenly you start finding ways to add in steps:

  • Parking farther from your destination
  • Taking the stairs rather than the elevator
  • Adding a stroll to your breaks and lunches
  • Enjoying an evening walk with your loved ones

One study found that setting a higher goal motivated people to walk more, even if they didn't meet the assigned goal. Reducing your goal also meant you were more likely to walk less.

Pedometers and Fitness Bands Evolve to Motivate

Pedometers went through several stages of improvement since the 1990s. Spring mechanisms gave way to accelerometers and accelerometer chips that freed the pedometer from the waistband. Pocket pedometers gave way to fitness bands, smartwatches, and pedometers built into mobile phones.

Pedometers and fitness bands began to connect to online dashboards and mobile apps so users could view and track a variety of data. Not only can you see your step count, you can also see estimates of distance, calories burned, moderate-to-vigorous activity minutes, inactive time, and sleep. Apps allowed users to connect with friends and compete with each other.

The challenge with fitness bands and pedometers is remembering to wear them. It can be helpful to use reminders and hacks to get you addicted to wearing it. Plus, you may not like the style of your tracker for all occasions—but they can be dressed up. Newer models of Fitbit and other trackers have interchangeable bands in designs from sport to dress.

But many people are satisfied with using the chip built into their smartphones, with either the built-in health app or a pedometer app. The key to being motivated by these devices is that you need to remember to check them or have them notify you at milestones or when you need to increase your steps to reach your daily goal.

Fitness Monitors Motivate More with Social Interactions

Fitness monitors that have a social networking component add a new layer of motivation for logging steps. Fitbit and other app-linked and computer-linked pedometers allow you to track friends' achievements who also wear the devices. One study found that the more social contacts made through the apps, the more steps and minutes of moderate-to-vigorous activity were logged.​

A Word From Verywell

Setting a daily step count goal and monitoring your progress and achievements can motivate you to get the physical activity you need for health. But as with any motivational tool, it won't work for everyone and it takes dedication on your part.

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