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Fitness: Using a Pedometer, Step Counter, or Wearable Device


Walking is one of the best things you can do to be more active. For most people, it's an easy and low-cost way to get moving and stay fit. Using a pedometer, step counter, wearable device, or fitness app can remind you to walk more. It can help you set goals and make walking a habit.

Experts recommend at least 2½ hours of moderate activity, such as brisk walking, each week. It's fine to walk in shorter periods of time throughout your day and week that add up to the recommended goalsfootnote 1

Check with your doctor before you start a walking plan if you have heart problems or other health issues, or if you have not been active in a long time. Follow your doctor's instructions for safe levels of exercise.

How can you get the best use out of a pedometer?

Using a pedometer, a step counter, a wearable device, or a fitness app on your phone is an easy and fun way to track how active you are. It adds up all the steps you take during the day. It can help motivate you to walk. A quick check may show that you need more steps for the day and help you set goals to take more steps. Some also can show you how many calories you've burned. Many of the apps are free.

Follow these steps to get the best use out of your device.

  1. Make using your step counter a habit.

    Put it on or activate it first thing in the morning as you get dressed. Leave it on until you go to bed.

  2. Find your activity level.
    1. Go about your usual routine for the first week. Don't change how active you are yet.
    2. Write down your steps each day in a step diary. Or let the device keep track for you. This will give you a starting record of how active you are.
    3. Look over this record for the week to see where you can add steps to your daily routine.
  3. Set goals.
    1. Set a goal for the second week. At first, try to add 300 to 500 steps to your day. Then work toward 2,000 more steps a day. This adds about 1 mile, or 20 minutes of walking, to your routine.
    2. Record your steps each day.
  4. Keep moving.
    1. Check how well you did from week 1 to week 2.
    2. Set a new goal for the next week.
    3. Work your way up to walking the number of steps per day you set for your goal.



  1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2018). Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd ed. https://health.gov/paguidelines/second-edition. Accessed July 9, 2018.


Current as of: October 10, 2022

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Elizabeth T. Russo MD - Internal Medicine

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