A pedometer is an electronic device that is capable of detecting certain motions that indicate walking, running or jogging. Each time it detects such motion it registers a step.
Over the past decade or so manufacturers have greatly improved the accuracy of these devices. At the same time other tracking technologies have grown up around them. As a result, you can now buy a very dependable stand-alone pedometer or a fitness tracker with an integrated pedometer and scores of other features that monitor virtually every aspect of your health.
Below we’ve brought together the 10 best pedometers of 2020 for your consideration.
1. 3DFitBud 3D Pedometer
3D Active and FitBud may not be household names (yet) but their 3D Pedometer gets our vote as ‘best in show’. It’s super easy to use and can be put into service right out of the box. It provides a large, clear readout that older folks won’t strain to read and the step counter is as accurate as any you’ll find on more expensive devices.
What we like: We like how compact the FitBud is. How light and easy to sling it is. We appreciate the accuracy, the clarity of the readout and that it comes with a battery installed. And we really appreciate that, unlike fitness trackers with integrated pedometers, it’s ready to go right out of the box.
Flaws: It’s pretty easy to mistakenly hit the reset button. If you do you’ll have to start over again so be careful when handling the device.
2. Realalt 3DTriSport Walking 3D Pedometer
The Realalt 3D TriSport is another ultra-simple, highly accurate pedometer that provides a nice large display and doesn’t require a complicated setup process. You can wear it clipped to your belt or slung around your neck via the included lanyard. It’s also versatile and can be used just to count steps or to also measure distance walked and calories burned.
What we like: We like the dedicated simplicity of this device. Setup is fast and easy and there are no wireless connections to worry about. We also like that it’s light and can easily be slung around the neck via the lanyard. It’s also available in various different colors.
Flaws: About the only obvious flaw is that the belt clip seems like something of an afterthought. Doesn’t attach very firmly. Better off slinging it around the neck.
3. Omron HJ-112 Digital Pocket Pedometer
The HJ-112 from Omron is small and accurate and can be slipped into your pocket while you walk. It’s durable, light and provides a half dozen tracking modes including aerobic steps, elapsed time and calories burned. It also stores collected data for a week so you can review it.
What we like: The HJ-112 is not as finicky as some other pedometers when it comes to positioning. So you can obtain a pretty accurate read no matter how you carry it. We like that. We also appreciate the effort they put into the non-step filters. And you can’t beat the affordable price.
Flaws: It can get a bit confused if you suddenly hop off the nice flat sidewalk onto a path with mixed terrain. Some folks are probably going to think it’s kind of large too. Though we didn’t mind.
4. Fitbit Charge 3
While the Charge 3 is not a pedometer per se it does have a highly accurate pedometer built into it. That pedometer is easy to access and the data can be automatically synced with dozens of apps to provide greater context. One of its most endearing qualities is that you can wear it walking and keep it on when you jump in the pool.
What we like: The pedometer itself is accurate and easy to activate. We like how fast it charges. And we appreciate that it enables you to track different types of activity like running, walking and biking.
Although it will take some time to set up the net result is not only a first-rate pedometer, but a wealth of other features at your fingertips.
Flaws: Some of the other features like the heart rate monitor can be a bit hit-or-miss. But if you’re okay with that the pedometer should serve you well.
5. Ozo Fitness SC2 Digital Pedometer
The SC2 from Ozo is a small, lightweight, dependable pedometer that provides a big sturdy clip and doesn’t require an engineering degree to set up. It features a triple-access sensor that detects walking motion no matter its position relative to that motion. And it will track calories burned, speed and elapsed time as well as steps.
What we like: We like how compact and light this pedometer is. We appreciate the overall accuracy and how easy it is to set up and use. The quick start guide is also helpful and uncluttered. Also, we appreciate that you don’t have to tether it to a smartphone or some other device.
Flaws: Being so small is both a strength and a weakness. On the one hand you can clip it anywhere. On the other hand the digital display may be too small for older folks to easily read.
6. Letscom Fitness Tracker HR
The Letscom Fitness tracker HR does an outstanding job tracking steps. It’s icing on the cake that it also allows you to track heart rate, sleep quality and a score of other metrics. It’s stylish, durable, waterproof and available in 8 different colors. It will, however, require more set up than a stand-alone pedometer. Just so you know.
What we like: We appreciate the accuracy of the integrated pedometer. And that the information it gleans can be immediately fed through an array of fitness apps that help you interpret it in a big picture way. We also like that it’s available in 8 different colors.
Flaws: It’s a fitness tracker so don’t expect it to be ready to go right out of the box. It will need to be setup and synced with your smartphone. The screen also has a tendency to light up for no apparent reason.
7. Pingko Portable Sport Pedometer
Pingko is a curious name for a red device. But naming disconnects aside it found a spot on our list because it’s easy to use, accurate, affordable, light and durable. This is a no-frills pedometer that provides a big, easy to read display and works for up to a year off a single battery.
What we like: We like the fact that, although it’s small it provides a nice big readout. We appreciate the battery-saving 1 minute auto-shutdown feature. And we like that you can get months worth of operation from a single battery. We also appreciate that it provides distance in both kilometers and miles.
Flaws: It can be temperamental. That is, you may have to move it around a bit to find a place where its effective. It also gets discombobulated if you change the length of your stride.
8. Garmin Vivofit 3
The Vivofit 3 from Garmin is a first rate fitness tracker that also happens to feature a first rate pedometer. Being a fitness tracker you’re able to take the information gleaned by the pedometer and feed it into innumerable health-related apps to see how your activity is affecting other aspects of your overall health.
What we like: There’s no arguing with the Garmin quality or versatility. The pedometer is as accurate as any out there and the wristband is comfy and light. It’s also compatible with any late model Android or iOS phone.
Flaws: About the only real downside here is that the step counter display is relatively small.
9. OZO Fitness SC 3D Digital Pedometer
When it comes to pedometers we’re big fans of simplicity. And the Ozo Fitness SC 3D is both laudably simple and highly accurate. Slip it in your pocket, clip it to your belt or wear it around your neck and you’ll get a clear picture of your true activity level. Measures steps, calories burned, elapsed time and distance with a high degree of precision.
What we like: We like how compact, light and accurate the device is and that it’s available in 4 colors. The display is also easy for everyone to read. While it’s not ready to go out of the box setup is relatively simple. We also appreciate the accuracy and that you have a choice of clipping it to your belt or slinging it.
Flaws: It’s prone to resetting itself if you carry it in your pocket.
10. OneTweak New EZ-1 Pedometer
The last of our best pedometers is from OneTweak. In keeping with the other devices on our list the EZ-1 is simple to use and presents its info on an easy to read screen. It can store up to a months’ worth of data for recall and comes with a durable lanyard that makes carrying the device a no-hassle experience.
What we like: We appreciate that you can sling or clip the device. We like the big, clear readout. It’s good that it keeps a week’s worth of data on hand for recall and the pause function is something we’d like to see in every pedometer. It’s also lightweight and affordable.
Flaws: It’s very sensitive to motion. Also, it’s pretty easy to accidentally hit the reset button.
Who Needs a Pedometer?
Pedometers are a convenience that can make it easier for a person to keep track of the amount of walking, running or jogging they do. This in turn can help them devise an effective diet and exercise plan and better ensure robust health going forward. So who needs a pedometer? Anyone interested in better overall health who doesn’t want to be bothered manually counting thousands of steps every time they go for a walk. If a person wants to know more than just how many steps they took they may want to pick up a fitness tracker. Many offer a pedometer as one of their features. There are many good fitness trackers on the market. Including the ones we profiled above like the Fitbit Charge 3.
How We Ranked
There are all kinds of pedometers on the market today, many of them sporting leading edge designs that look more like alien jewelry than pedometers. But while, in principle, we’re big fans of pushing the design envelope, if a design interferes with the ability of the user to access information in a fast, easy manner then it’s not much good. Therefore, you’ll notice our list includes plenty of pedometers that are simple in design and execution and put a premium on readability.
We also considered size. Because, while miniaturization is the rule in the 21st century, the pedometer needs to be at least big enough to accommodate that large, easy to read screen. So there’s a few smaller devices on our list, but they all have screens designed for humans. Ease of use is also important because these are pedometers intended to count steps. Not quantum computers designed to handle trillions of calculations per second.
We also gave serious consideration to build quality, style and wearability. As far as extra features were concerned, our view is that they’re nice, but they’re secondary. In a few cases we chose fitness trackers with built in pedometers. Not, however, just because the fitness tracker offered more bells and whistles. But because the pedometer it provided was first rate. The bells and whistles were just icing on the cake.
A pedometer can help you get and stay healthy. This is why people buy a pedometer so it had better fulfill its purpose. Whether you work at a computer station all day, or you’re retired and don’t exactly have an active lifestyle, the simple act of walking can make a world of difference healthwise (1). But keeping track of how much you actually walk can be a challenge. Unless of course you have access to a circuit that you know to be a certain distance. But who has that? This is where pedometers come in. With a pedometer you don’t have to try and determine distance. All you have to do is let the device count the steps you’re taking. It makes walking a healthy amount easy as pie.
A pedometer lets you set health and wellness goals. Psychologists have long known that setting goals can be crucial to obtaining a successful outcome (2). This is particularly true when it comes to fitness and overall wellbeing. A pedometer can help you set and meet goals which will help you keep your one and only body in good working order. When it comes to walking the most commonly mentioned goal is 10,000 steps per day. That sounds like a lot. And if you typically only move from the bedroom to the sofa to the bathroom to the sofa and then back to the bedroom, it is. But if you live a more average life chances are you already take nearly 5,000 steps per day (3). So ramping that up to 10,000 isn’t really such a stretch.
A pedometer is a lot cheaper than joining a health club. Have you looked into the cost of health clubs these days? They’re not cheap (4). Not only that but they’re not particularly welcoming to older folks. Most of the organized activities are geared specifically toward 20 and 30-somethings with boundless energy. Not 50 or 60-somethings looking to blow the dust off muscles that haven’t been used since Clinton was president. Even for those highly energized young adults though the health club atmosphere often leaves a lot to be desired. Which is one reason a majority of members don’t ever show up (5). So why bother? A pedometer can help you get into shape for just a fraction of what 1 months’ membership at the gym would cost. And you don’t have to put up with sweaty equipment, blaring music, rude stares or smelly locker rooms.
A pedometer can help you meet your weight loss goals. In order to meet weight loss goals you need to do more than simply change what and how much you eat. You also have to build new habits related to exercise and be more active in general. That’s also the only way you stand a real chance of keeping the weight off once you lose it (6). A pedometer can help you get into the habit of exercising and so help you meet your weight loss goals. And this is true whether you’re 22 or 72.
A pedometer helps promote sociability. While socializing is important for people of every age it’s particularly important for older folks. As people age friends and loved ones die and others simply drift away and are never heard from again. The isolation and loneliness that often results is a danger to a person’s physical and emotional wellbeing (7)(8). While the humble pedometer won’t bring back lost friends it can help a person make new ones. Just being out and about getting in your steps will help re-establish a connection to the larger world. Also, some pedometers (especially those integrated into fitness trackers) enable the user to connect with an online community of like-minded people. Meet ups can be arranged, groups walks and more.
A pedometer often tracks other types of activity as well. Many fitness trackers come with pedometers built in. If you have one of these devices you are likely also able to track 8 or 10 or 12 or even more other activities besides just steps. Even simply pedometers that don’t sync with your smartphone or offer access to 100 different fitness apps will also measure things like distance walked, calories burned and elapsed time. All this information can help you devise more effective workouts.
A pedometer can provide motivation to get active. The obesity epidemic (9) that has gripped much of the developed world is as much an epidemic of inactivity (10). As people spend more and more time sitting in front of computer screens they simply don’t burn off the calories they consume the way previous generations used to. A pedometer can provide the motivation a person needs to get up and go for a walk or a run. And this can help fend off an array of problems created by inactivity including type II diabetes and heart disease.
A pedometer provides a real world picture of your activity. It’s human nature to overestimate how active we are or how hard we’re working. For instance, it’s common for people to say that during a hiking trip they carried a 100 pound backpack. With all due respect, no one carries 100 pound backpacks. Most people in fact would have difficulty carrying 25 or 30 pounds all day. It’s often the same with walking. People think they’re walking a lot more than they actually are and then wonder why they’re not meeting their fitness goals. A pedometer can inject a much needed dose of reality into a person’s fitness routine that will help them obtain better results.
A pedometer is light and compact and can be worn by anyone. Pedometers are so light and small that they can be easily worn by anyone at any age. Most weigh only a few ounces and can either be slung around the neck or simply clipped to a pocket or belt. This lightweight versatility makes them an outstanding fitness aid for older folks.
Q: I can count. Why do I need a pedometer?
A: You don’t ‘need’ a pedometer any more than you ‘need’ a phone. But both can come in mighty handy from time to time. Convenience is the hallmark of most high-tech devices and the pedometer is no different. Sure, you could try and count in your head the number of steps you take. But chances are something during your walk will distract you and you’ll wind up losing count. Even if you don’t, who wants to spend their time walking through the park on a beautiful spring day counting steps? You want to enjoy the spring flowers and the warm air and the promise of summer days ahead. Not worry about if the last step was 4,306 or 3,406. Let the pedometer do the counting for you and enjoy your life.
Q: Is a simple step counter better than a multi-function pedometer?
A: Whether one thing is better than the other depends entirely on what metrics you want to track. If you are strictly interested in obtaining a device that will provide a reliable approximation of how many steps you take then a simple pedometer should suffice. If, however, you also want to track your heart rate, the number of calories you’re burning, your blood pressure, body temperature and more then you’ll want a fitness tracker. Just remember that the more functions involved the more complicated the device. A lot of older folks who weren’t spoonfed digital technology since infancy don’t want to be bothered with setting up a fitness tracker and learning all the ins and outs. They just want to know how many steps they’re taking. For them a pedometer should be just fine.
Q: Is a pedometer the same as a fitness tracker?
A: While many fitness trackers include a pedometer as one of their features that doesn’t change the fact that they’re a fitness tracker. Fitness trackers are designed to track a variety of metrics. Some will even monitor your bodily functions while you sleep. That’s pretty far removed from counting steps. Dedicated pedometers, like many of the items on our list, are designed and built for the purpose of counting steps. That’s it. Some will offer a couple of other features such as calorie counting. But they’re primary purpose is to count steps. They don’t sync with your smartphone or provide you access to hundreds of fitness apps. Most don’t even offer any type of internet access. They count steps. That’s why they’re called pedometers.
Q: What’s the best way to wear a pedometer?
A: Most dedicated pedometers offer 2 ways to wear them: either slung around the neck or clipped to a pocket or belt. Fitness trackers that include pedometers are typically worn around the wrist like a watch. Most pedometers will come with suggestions regarding the best place to wear them. But if experience teaches us anything it’s that finding the best, most effective spot where you’ll get the most accurate readings is usually a matter of trial and error. The one place you’re almost always likely to encounter problems is in your pocket. Some pedometers suggest they can be slipped into your pants pocket and they’ll work just fine. In reality this is usually a recipe for the reset button to be accidentally engaged or the step count to come out way off.
Q: How does a pedometer count steps?
A: In most cases the pedometer uses a small pendulum-like device that is activated by the motion of your walking. Ideally, each time you take a step you cause this arm to move once and a step is registered. We say ‘ideally’ because in some cases that arm will swing or vibrate more than once per step. And in other cases it may not move at all. Which causes no step to be counted. If the device is not properly calibrated this arm may be too sensitive and register many more steps than you actually take. Or not sensitive enough and miss some steps. The engineering that goes into making such a device, and making it register accurately, is simple in theory but complex in execution. Even so, it has shown marked improvement in recent years.
Q: How much weight will I lose if I walk 10,000 steps per day?
A: There’s no way to know for sure exactly how much weight a person will lose by walking X number of steps. That’s largely because no one seems to know for sure just how many calories are burned walking. Current estimates vary from about 3 1/2 calories per minute to 7 calories per minute (11). Notice that’s per minute. Not per step. So how much weight you lose taking 10,000 steps per day is nearly impossible to determine with any degree of exactitude. All scientists can really do is guess. But it’s the big picture you should be concerned with. Walking 5 miles a day will burn some calories, sure. But more importantly it will pay handsome dividends when it comes to cardiovascular health and helping you avoid type II diabetes.
Q: How often do I have to replace the batteries on a pedometer?
A: Never before has there been such a disparity in the power, lifespan and overall quality of batteries. But the quality of the battery is just one consideration in determining how long they last. Another, equally important factor is how much power the device in question uses at any given time. For instance, when it comes to fitness trackers many manufacturers boast the battery will provide a week of service on a single charge. Until, that is, you engage something like a heart rate monitor. Once you do that the battery will likely be completely drained in 5 or 6 hours. So how often you have to replace batteries will depend on what type of pedometer you’re using, what other functions are engaged and what type of batteries are involved.
Q: How do I know the step count is accurate?
A: The only way to absolutely verify the step count is accurate is to start at zero and then count your steps mentally, one at a time while you walk with the pedometer also engaged. When you reach a certain number of steps – say 1,000 – stop and check your count against the pedometer. Does the pedometer agree you went 1,000 steps? If it’s only off by a few that should be close enough. Because this is not a matter of 10,000 steps producing boffo benefits and 9,890 producing none. If you walk approximately 10,000 steps or approximately 5 miles a day you’ll be doing yourself a world of good. If you’re really concerned about obtaining the highest degree of accuracy you’ll likely need to spend a few extra bucks. Because pedometers are like everything else; in most cases you get what you pay for.
Q: Are all pedometers waterproof?
A: No. And there is really no reason for them to be. Water resistance can be useful in case you get caught in the rain, but waterproof is usually reserved for devices that are expected to be submerged in water at some point (12). There is no good reason why a simple step counter should ever be completely submerged in water. The one exception to the waterproof rule are those pedometers that are integrated into fitness trackers. In that case the fitness tracker may be waterproof because it’s designed to also track laps and/or strokes in the pool. But there is no reason for the dedicated, stand-alone pedometer to be fully waterproof.
Q: How accurate are calorie counters on pedometers?
A: As we mentioned above calorie counting is an inexact science. The calorie counter on a simple pedometer doesn’t actually count anything. What it does is estimate how many calories the average person would burn by taking the number of steps you’ve taken. It then presents you with that number. If your pedometer is integrated into a fitness tracker it likely uses a more involved algorithm. One that might allow you to factor in things like your weight, height, age, sex and perhaps even what you ate before you went for your walk. You might even be able to enter whether you’re walking on a flat surface or on a hill. Even then, however, the app will not keep track of the amount of calories you actually burn. All it will do, all it can possibly do, is estimate how many calories you might have burned (13).
A pedometer is a device that can help you take better control of your overall health by providing a real-world picture of your physical activity. This in turn helps you make informed decisions about your diet and to formulate an effective exercise routine.
There are two basic types of pedometers: stand-alone devices and those that come integrated into a fitness tracker. The stand-alone devices are typically less expensive, easier to set up and don’t require any type of wireless connection. Fitness trackers typically need to be synced to a smartphone where they interact with any number of proprietary or third party health and wellness apps.
The pedometers on our list have all proven their mettle on the sidewalks, in the parks and on countless treadmills throughout the country. One of them is sure to dovetail nicely with your needs.
For cpoe.org’s #1 recommended pedometer, click here.