The Research On Pedometers

Pedometers are everywhere. On your phone. On your watch. In your shoes. The ways in which you can count each step you take are vast and getting easier by the day. 

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But should you? What are the benefits of pedometers? Does counting your steps actually make you healthier?

Well, much of the research says yes. 

Studies have looked at how pedometers impact quality of life for many people – from children to older adults and for those with chronic diseases, such as cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

In many cases, the results are positive. Pedometer use in many cases leads to increased overall levels of physical activity, weight loss, improved health and quality of life.

What are some of the takeaways from recent studies? 

Well, the research has found that pedometer use is associated with significant increases in physical activity and decreases in blood pressure and body mass index (BMI).(1)

Some suggest that pedometer use can help people drop pounds. A 2016 meta-analysis found that pedometer use promoted weight loss among adults with Type II Diabetes.(2)

Another recent study alluded to the importance of setting step goals as you embark on a pedometer-based activity program.

In 2017, Staiano et al saw the importance of step-based goals when they examined pedometer programs for overweight and obese children. The researchers found that those children who received pedometers along with step-based goals increased their step count significantly compared to those kids who received pedometers without accompanying goals. But both groups that used pedometers reported improvements in their health and quality of life.(3)

And research has found that the impact of pedometer-based programs can be long-lasting.

A 2018 study by Tess Harris et al followed up with pedometer users up to 4 years after the start of a pedometer-based walking intervention. They found that even several years passed the initial intervention, the walking group had continued higher step counts than the control group that did not use pedometers.(4)

Ready to start counting? Here’s a few tips:

  1. Do your research. There are a slew of ways to track steps out there. And there are many factors to consider including cost, battery life, accuracy, and whether the tracker has other bells and whistles that you may want, such as sleep tracking and blood pressure monitoring.
  2. Consider Apps on your phone. Many smart phones have tracking capabilities built in so you need not purchase a new accessory. Check those out and see if this simple solution is best for you.
  3. Develop a plan. Once you determine how you are going to step count, we recommend that you spend a week or two establishing your baseline. This means count your steps without changing your lifestyle. Take the average daily or weekly steps from about 2 weeks of normal routine. This will give you a base starting point. Once you have your baseline, you can begin to set goals.
  4. If necessary, consult your doctor or physical therapist on how to goal set. Sun Physical Therapy works with patients all of the time in the establishment of pedometer-based physical activity programs. We would be happy to assist you.
  5. Get comfortable walking shoes and get going. 

See you on the trail!


(1) Bravata, Dena M et al. Using pedometers to increase physical activity and improve health: a systematic review. JAMA. 2007 Nov 21;298(19):2296-304. doi: 10.1001/jama.298.19.2296.

(2) Cai, X et al. Pedometer intervention and weight loss in overweight and obese adults with Type 2 diabetes: a meta‐analysis. Diabet Med. 2016 Aug; 33(8): 1035–1044. Published online 2016 Mar 25. doi: 10.1111/dme.13104

(3) Staiano, Amanda E et al. Step Tracking with Goals Increases Children’s Weight Loss in Behavioral Intervention. Child Obes. 2017 Aug 1; 13(4): 283–290. Published online 2017 Aug 1. doi: 10.1089/chi.2017.0047

(4) Harris, Tess et al.  Physical activity levels in adults and older adults 3–4 years after pedometer-based walking interventions: Long-term follow-up of participants from two randomised controlled trials in UK primary care. PLoS Med. 2018 Mar; 15(3): e1002526. Published online 2018 Mar 9. doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1002526

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