Walking – Pedometer versus Fitness Tracker

Be healthy and green. Walk more, drive less.

Woman Wearing Tennis Shoes Walking on a Trail

Walking is good for your health and the planet. A pedometer or fitness tracker can be fun and help you stay accountable to yourself.

For our early ancestors, walking was an integral part of daily life and they walked everywhere. Getting from point A to point B contributed to staying fit and healthy and did not involve polluting the environment.

Nowadays, it seems like many people view walking as something to avoid if possible by driving places they could easily walk to in 10 or 15 minutes or sitting in idling cars waiting for the closest parking space. To compound matters, a lot of people work at sedentary jobs requiring sitting for long periods.

Fortunately, human beings are adaptable and we are able to learn new habits and renew previous ones. If you have gotten out of the habit of walking, you can choose to make walking part of your daily life, again.

A pedometer or fitness tracker can help you stay on track and give you a sense of accomplishment. Hopefully, the information below will help you determine if a pedometer or fitness tracker might be right for you and what type of product and features will help you fulfill your walking goals.

Pedometer Overview ($25 to $35)

Omron Alvita Ultimate Pedometer in GreyThe main function of a pedometer is to count your steps and estimate the distance you travel in a day. Most models will also estimate the number of aerobic (heartbeat-raising) minutes you walk and calories you burn, display the time, and hold seven days worth of memory.

Pedometer Set Up

Before setting up your pedometer, you will need to calculate your stride by walking 10 steps, measuring the distance with a tape measure, and dividing by 10. Repeat this process several times to make sure you are walking with your normal stride or it will skew your data. As an example, my normal walking stride is 210” divided by 10 = 21” or 1’-9.”

To set up your pedometer you enter the time and your height, weight, and stride. Then stick it in your pocket or clip it onto your waistband and start walking.

Pedometer Accuracy

The mechanism a pedometer uses to track steps seems to work best when you mostly walk on level ground. They tend to undercount steps when you are walking up or down stairs or hiking up and down hills. Also, keep in mind that your calories burned figure is a ballpark estimate based on limited information.

Fitness Tracker Overview ($50 to $250)

Fitness trackers function as pedometers with a few or a lot of additional features, such as estimating the number of staircases you climb, monitoring your heart rate, tracking your sleep patterns, logging all types of exercise, keeping track of your food and water intake, and integrating into your social media accounts. Some have GPS, texting and email, and alerts, like vibrating to let you know you have been sitting too long.

Fitness trackers use wireless technology to communicate with your smartphone and/or computer. This makes it easy to store, compare, and share your data and achievements.

Important Note – your smartphone needs to be a certain version or above to integrate with your fitness tracker. However, you can just sync your fitness tracker with your computer and track your data online.

Fitness Tracker Set Up

To get started with setting up your fitness tracker, you download the appropriate smartphone and computer apps. Then you create a profile and enter the same information you would for a pedometer. If you choose, enter your exercise and weight goals. Some trackers do not require you enter your stride length, but it is more accurate if you do.

Depending on the product you purchased, put it in your pocket, clip it onto your waistband, or strap it to your wrist and start walking.

Fitness Tracker Accuracy

Fitness trackers usually have more advanced mechanisms and sensors than pedometers so they seem to track steps and calories burned more accurately.

Pedometer versus Fitness Tracker

I bought my first pedometer in January 2010 to help me accomplish my New Year’s resolution of incorporating more walking into my day with a goal of walking 10,000 steps each day. It worked!

Fast forward to early 2016. I was nearing the end of a grueling year of treatment for breast cancer and I was ready to undertake the challenge of regaining my pre-cancer fitness level. It was hard work and I wanted to get “credit” for every step, including walking up and down the stairs in my 2-story house, so I decided to switch to a more accurate step counting fitness tracker.

After conducting research online and reading user reviews, I bought two fitness trackers to try out. I chose the Microsoft Band 2 because it seemed to have the most sophisticated mechanisms for counting steps and I selected the Fitbit One because it is tiny.

Microsoft Band 2 Review

I wore the Band 2 on my wrist for over a year and I even wore it while I slept for a few months. It was interesting to know how many staircases I climbed each day, how many hours of deep sleep I got, and what my heart beat rate was after doing a strenuous task, but it was unnecessary. Wearing something on my wrist was uncomfortable while typing on a computer keyboard and while sleeping.

Microsoft Band 2 Wireless Fitness Tracker

The Band 2 ($249.99) does count steps accurately but I wasted money on features I do not need or use. Microsoft has since discontinued this product.

Fit Bit One Review

I switched to the Fitbit One, which easily fits in my pocket. Although it will track sleep, I have not used the sleep wristband and do not intend to. I enjoy the little flower on the display screen that grows and shrinks depending on my activity level, but it is not necessary.

Fitbit One Wireless Fitness TrackerLike the Band 2, the FitBit One ($99.99) counts steps accurately and has features I do not need or use. However, being able to view my progress on my computer helps me stay motivated and earning badges is fun.

The Bottom Line

A pedometer is an inexpensive tool that can help you build more walking into your daily routine and then stick with it. If you do not walk up and down a lot of stairs or hills or are not that concerned with counting every step, a pedometer is a good choice.

Unless you are a professional athlete or a serious exercise enthusiast, many fitness tracker features might seem cool when you are reading about them but end up being unnecessary. If you want accurate step counting, data tracking, and/or like sharing on social media, a fitness tracker might work best for you.

Me, I am sticking with the Fitbit One because I want “credit” for every step.

Hopefully, the information above will help you decide whether to buy a pedometer or fitness tracker and what things to think about before you do buy one. The bottom line is that walking more and driving less is good for you and the planet.

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Author: Linda Poppenheimer

Linda researches and writes about environmental topics to share information, spark conversation, and convince people to take action to keep earth habitable for all. She believes our individual actions do matter—it all adds up.

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