How to Use a Pedometer to Lose Weight

Learn how to read your pedometer and use the information for weight loss

how to use a pedometer
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Pedometers are machines that track our steps and distance traveled. These devices can also be used to help you lose weight. You might be familiar with how to read a pedometer, but do you know how to use pedometer readings to reach your weight loss goals? Use this guide to learn the best way to use pedometers for better health, improved fitness, and weight loss. 

Using a Pedometer

Pedometers let you monitor your daily exercise to help you get and stay motivated for your walking routine. They're really simple to use, too. But you can't just wear the pedometer and expect to get results. You'll need to put in the steps to achieve your weight loss goals.

Studies have shown people who walk fewer than 5,000 steps each day are more likely to be overweight. Those who take more than 9,000 steps daily are more likely to be at a healthy weight.

Determine Your Baseline

The first thing you'll want to do is determine how many steps you're currently taking. So, plan on a day or two of simply monitoring your normal activity. Use this information to create a plan for increasing your walking activity.

When you first start wearing the device, you'll probably notice that your pedometer readings are fairly low. That's totally fine, what matters is building on from wherever you are now. For example, you might only walk 4,000 or 5,000 steps per day—that's very normal. In fact, according to the National Institutes of Health, the average American walks just 4,000 steps daily.

If you sit at work or you are fairly sedentary at home, the number might even be lower. Don't worry about where you are starting, simply focus on maintaining and building on the number of steps you're currently taking. Your goal should be to increase the number gradually and consistently. 

Make a Progressive Goal

Set a goal to get your pedometer reading to around 1,000 more steps than you're normally walking within a month. For example, if you currently walk 4,500 steps daily, make your goal 5,500 to 6,000 steps. Once you feel comfortable with the number, take another month to boost your number to 7,500.

Continue adding another 1,000 or 1,500 (or more) to your monthly goal. Eventually, you'll be walking 10,000 steps or more and burning enough extra calories to keep your weight loss on track.

Picking Your Pedometer

Buying a pedometer could be the best fitness investment you ever make. A pedometer can cost as little as $5, which is a real bargain for a tool that will help you set and meet daily step goals.

Like a lot of other gadgets, pedometers come in different sizes, brands, and varieties. On average, they cost between $12 and $30, depending on how many features they have.

A simple pedometer only records the number of steps you take based on your body's movement. There is a tiny apparatus within your pedometer that moves each time you move your hip in order to take a step. The pedometer "clicks over" with every step you take.

You can get one that is very discreet if you'd like to wear it all day long or at work. Many activity monitors include ​a step counter as well as other weight loss features. More complex, digital pedometer models track the distance you've walked and calories burned but are more expensive. A simple step counter is often an effective place to start. You can always "upgrade" later on.

How Do I Wear a Pedometer?

Your pedometer should be attached to your waistband about half-way between your side and your belly button on the waistband of your pants. If it lines up with your knee, then you've got it in a good spot. It should always be kept in the horizontal position and remain parallel to the ground.

To test that your pedometer is in the right place, reset it to 0, and manually count off 25 steps. Then, take a look at your pedometer. It should reflect no fewer than 24 steps and no more than 26. If it's further off than that, move it to the left or right and re-try the test until the results more accurately reflect your actual number of steps.

Understanding Readings

Once you become familiar with the basic equivalencies between steps and milage, you can learn to use pedometer readings to estimate the distance you've walked each day. This information gives you a benchmark for how far you are walking.

Estimate Mileage

Every 2,000 steps equals about one mile.

  • 1,000 steps = a half mile
  • 4,000 steps = 2 miles
  • 10,000 steps = 5 miles

Determining Your Exact Steps Per Mile

If you want to be more exact about the distance you're walking, wear your pedometer to your local walking track. Most tracks have a sign that says how many times around equals one mile. So, for example, if four circuits equal one mile, walk around four times. Mark your starting/stopping point and reset your pedometer to 0 before you begin.

When you've made it around the track the required number of circuits—in the example, four times—take note of your steps shown on the pedometer when you return to your starting point; this number can serve as your "Steps Per Mile" (SPM) baseline (the number of steps you take to walk one mile).

If you can only make it around twice, multiply your steps shown on the pedometer by two; if one trip is all you do, multiply your result by four.

Calculate Your Mileage

After you've done your calibration, each time you walk with your pedometer, compare the total number of steps your pedometer shows to your SPM baseline. If you take more steps than your SPM, just divide your total number of steps by your SPM.

Using Your SPM to Calculate Mileage

If your SPM is 2,500 and you walk 5,000 steps in a day, divide 5,000 by 2,500. In this example, you've walked two miles.

Remember, this isn't an exact measuring method because it can't take into account when you walk slower or faster or with shorter or wider steps than you did the day you determined your SPM. But, it's still a good rule of thumb and an effective way to stay motivated, especially if you're more likely to feel a sense of achievement by measuring approximate distance instead of just steps.

A Word From Verywell

Use your pedometer data to give you a realistic picture of how much walking you're really doing. This information allows you to track your progress and gives you a daily goal to meet or beat—and this little bit of self-competition can really help when it comes to sticking with and reaching your fitness goals.

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Article Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. National Institutes of Health. How many steps for better health? Published June 11, 2019.

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