NDSU Extension Service - Ramsey County


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Adding Up the Steps

Adding Up the Steps


Counting daily steps is becoming more popular every day and pedometers seem to be everywhere.  The benefits of walking are well known.  It helps to keep us healthy by reducing our risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and some types of cancer. It also helps us maintain or lose weight. Counting steps via a pedometer is just the incentive or challenge many of us need to be up and moving more.

All pedometers are not created equal. Pedometers range from basic models for as little as $5 to much more expensive models jam-packed with bells and whistles. A bare-bones unit might simply measure steps, while a fancy one might measure steps, calories, miles, and heart rate.

Whatever the model, pedometers all work in a similar fashion by counting the electronic pulses each time you take a step, and multiplying those by your preprogrammed stride or step length. Reading the instructions that came with your pedometer is very important as some refer to "stride" and "step" interchangeably, while others distinguish "stride" as the distance between one heel striking once and then again, which would technically be two steps. You just don't want to be short-changing -- or cheating -- your total count.

If you want to know how far you've walked, the following is a good rule of thumb:

1,000 steps is approximately a half miles so

  • 2,000 steps = 1 mile
  • 3,000 steps = a half mile
  • 4,000 steps = 2 miles
  • 10,000 steps = 5 miles
  • If you want to be more certain about the steps your pedometer is showing, wear your pedometer to a bike or walking track. Most tracks have a sign that says how many times around it are equivalent to one mile. So, for example, if three circuits equal one mile, mark your starting/stopping point and reset your pedometer to 0 before you start walking. When you've made it around the track the required number of circuits -- in the example, three 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 required to walk one mile

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

    If you choose to wear your pedometer all day, every day, an excellent goal to work toward is 10,000 steps per day. When ssetting goals -

    • Set small, reachable daily step goals.

    • If you currently get 3,000 steps a day, don’t get overwhelmed with trying to reach 10,000.

    • Make a goal of 500 more steps each day.

    • Once you achieve that for a few weeks, add 500 more!

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