The Effective Use of a Pedometer

“I’d bet I walked ten miles today at work!” “These kids have me jumping and running so much, I probably walked to the moon and back!” “If I had a nickel for every step I took today, I’d be rich!”

Use of a PedometerSounds familiar? Now we know that we can actually measure our steps by using a pedometer, but are you aware that just the act of wearing and using a pedometer can lead to increased physical movement? It’s true: studies have shown that when folks wear pedometers they tend to move more than when they don’t wear one. What’s at work here? Well, let’s call it Motivational Focus. And before we examine how it works, let’s briefly look at an overview of pedometers.

Pedometers can be very small, no larger than an mp3 player or an iPod. They can have a wide range of features such as the ability to display the number of steps you’ve taken throughout the day, or an estimate of how many calories you’ve burned off by walking, or a timer/alarm to keep you on-time and on-track. There are very sophisticated units that can interface with your laptop, home computer or even your cell phone so you can build a database record of your walks. Some pedometers will display an estimate of your average miles-per-hour (MPH) that you’ve achieved while working out. Others are equipped with pulse monitors so you may know when you’ve reached a target pulse rate. As you can see, not all pedometers are the same although they all do have one thing in common: they count the number of steps you take when walking.

How do the pedometers keep count of your steps? The basic unit may use a spring mechanism that requires care in the actual positioning of the pedometer. The spring mechanism variety is most effective when it is worn in a vertical position. However, another variety of pedometer known as an accelerometer can be worn in a wider variety of positions while still delivering an accurate count. There are even newer models of pedometers that work fine attached to a lanyard or cord, or carried within your pocket.

Now that we know more about what pedometers are, how they work and what they’re capable of doing for us, let’s look at that Motivational Focus we spoke about at the beginning of this article.

Consider for a moment what happens when you are about to take someone’s picture. Being aware that their portrait is about to be captured, most people pose themselves in a way that, to them, conveys their very best attributes. “Get my right side,” they’ll say or “Don’t make my chin look fat.” They do this because it is human nature to seek to control how we are perceived by others. It is the awareness of the picture about to be taken that causes us to pose. It is Motivational Focus at work.

When we seek snapshots to evaluate our actions, rather than our looks, the same Motivational Focus acts as a subtle catalyst to encourage us to perform well. Clip on a pedometer and you’re suddenly far more aware of walking than you were before. Are you actually walking more than you were before? You’ll find the answer to that with your pedometer!