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Why Buy A Pedometer?
Making the decision, getting up and taking the first step in your fitness journey is much easier when you have a pedometer on your side. It's hard to tell how many steps you actually take while grocery shopping, walking around the office or strolling through a park on your own. With a pedometer like the Fitbit Zip, Fitbit One or Fitbit Flex 2, you take the guesswork out of your fitness and have more control over your health. The best pedometers in our review accurately track not just your steps, but also how active you really are every day. They track everyday activities like walking across a parking lot, cleaning your house and pacing while on the phone and add them to your daily counts. Just knowing how active you are can motivate you to improve your health and fitness in the long run.
The main piece of technology inside a pedometer is an accelerometer. This mechanism can sense forward, backward and side-to-side steps. Whenever you take a step, the accelerometer senses the movement, similar to how you sense movement in a moving car. You can feel the force when you accelerate and when you slam on the brakes, as well as when you take a left- or right-hand turn. Accelerometers calculate the force and direction you move and translate that information into steps, speed, distance and active minutes.
A gyroscope works in almost the same way, but it can sense 360-degree movement. While accelerometers are best for calculating your steps, gyroscopes are great for sensing your movements during sleep. Pedometers with accelerometers and gyroscopes are better equipped to accurately track your everyday activities as well as your hours of restful sleep.
Pedometers aren't the only devices that can keep track of how many steps you take a day. Many other wearables can track steps and have additional features. While pedometer watches are best for step tracking, if you want a better app, notifications and heart rate monitoring, there are a few products better suited to your needs.
While fitness trackers have more features and better app connectivity, pedometers are streamlined and much less expensive. The best step counters put fitness in the forefront, without feature-heavy distractions, plus they have longer battery lives than fitness trackers and are much more budget-friendly.
Heart rate monitor watches are for more serious athletes, and they track the distance and duration of your workouts as well as your heart rate. Heart rate zone training is important if you need to maintain your maximum heart rate during a workout, but it is much less important if you're just trying to get out and walk more. Pedometers for walking are much less expensive and track day-to-day activities better than heart-rate-centered devices.
Smartwatches are the ultimate do-it-all wearables, but it's easy to get bogged down in notifications from your phone instead of focusing on your fitness. Pedometer bracelets are, again, much more budget-friendly and don’t overload you with features you don't need. It's refreshing to have a smart wearable with only one objective in mind – your health.
Even your smartphone has free apps that can track your steps without a wearable. However, pedometers are much more accurate and efficient at counting each of your daily activity. It's better to leave phone calls, texting and your calendar to your phone and leave your steps, calories and sleep tracking to your pedometer.
Pedometers: What We Tested, What We Found
We found the pedometers we tested to be generally easy to use, comfortable and relatively accurate. During our tests, our experts wore the trackers on their wrists or clipped to their pants pockets, depending on the style of the pedometer. They also alternated wearing them on the left and the right sides to eliminate any left- or right-hand dominance biases. Our reviewers also varied in fitness level and exercise preference.
Accuracy Test: During the accuracy test, we wore all the devices while manually counting steps taken on measured and coursed routes. For each test, we traveled the same 1-mile route at the same pace using a stopwatch to measure active minutes, manually counting each step. We then cross-referenced this tracked exercise with the numbers reported by each wrist pedometer.
The Withings Go was the most accurate device overall, as it was within 0.05 miles of the tracked distance and reported the exact same number of active minutes as the stopwatch. On the other hand, the Yamax Power Walker reported 3 miles above our actual mile count, making it the least accurate for tracking distance.
App Test: A group of expert reviewers assessed each app for the following: customization, navigation, useful data such as charts and graphs, the number of metrics tracked, how easy it is to set and track goals, appearance and aesthetics, the summary page, and overall ease of use. We found that the most customizable apps are the easiest to use and the most motivating. The Fitbit app was one of the best, as it is completely customizable, lets you set whatever goals you want and shows you handfuls of helpful graphs of your progress.
Overall, we found no pedometer is 100 percent accurate. This is normal, as many factors affect how accurate your device is, such as how you wear it, where you wear it, your own personal metrics, stride length and more. The best pedometers were generally within 100 steps of the actual count. The Fitbit Zip and the Fitbit One were both less than 10 steps off our actual count, making them the most accurate when tracking steps.
Top Ten Reviews seeks, whenever possible, to evaluate all products and services in hands-on tests that simulate as closely as possible the experiences of a typical consumer. We purchased or obtained the units in our comparison from the manufacturers. The manufacturers had no input or influence over our test methodology, nor was the methodology provided to any of them in more detail than is available through reading our reviews. Results of our evaluations were not provided to the companies in advance of publication.
What Else Is Important in Selecting a Pedometer?
In addition to choosing an accurate device, you also want to find one that works with your fitness regime. Each of the following features have tradeoffs and depend entirely on your own personal preferences. Deciding whether you want to view your goals on your pedometer or only in the app is important, as it can keep you on track to meet your goals. Battery life, form factor, design features and screens are also key considerations.
Progress Monitoring & Goal Setting
Setting concrete goals is the best way to meet your fitness objectives. The best pedometers allow you to customize goals to fit your lifestyle, many via their connected apps. Being able to view your activity history on the device itself is another helpful way to make sure you are more active each day than you were the one before.
Pedometers with large screens or full-feature apps display your progress over time and encourage you to keep moving with tips, tricks and notifications when you meet your goals. Interacting with your data on a day-to-day and month-to-month basis boosts your knowledge, keeps you accountable to yourself and pushes you to be healthier.
It’s important for a pedometer to have a long-lasting battery. However, what is considered long lasting depends on the features the device has. Pedometers with Bluetooth syncing, large screens and tactile features have short battery lives of about a week or less and come with a charger. Step counters with monochrome screens, no connected app and no goal setting features last about six months before you need to switch out the coin cell battery.
Design & Convenience
Step counters come in many different designs, so you can choose the most convenient one for your fitness preferences. The most popular pedometers are wrist-style bands and clip-style counters that attach to your clothing. You should also consider a tracker’s weight, as lighter wristbands are easier to wear.
Pedometers are also either waterproof or water resistant. If you want to regularly take your device swimming, choose a waterproof pedometer that is rated for at least 5 ATM.
Along with pedometer type and weight, it is important to consider how you want to interact with your pedometer. Pedometers either have a display screen where you can view your stats or no screen and a connected app where you can view your daily totals. Screens are very useful if you want instant feedback, whereas bracelet style devices without screens are easier and more fashionable to wear.
Pedometers: Our Verdict & Recommendations
The Fitbit Zip, the Gold Award winner, is a tiny device with a lot of features. Its small screen displays your steps taken, calories burned and distance traveled, and inside the app you can view many more metrics such as sleep quality, active minutes, weight tracking and more. With one of the best apps and a high accuracy score, the Zip is a great addition to your walking routine.
The Fitbit One, our Silver Award winner, has many of the same qualities as its sibling. This slim clip has one of the best screens, as its small but well-lit and easy to read. Encouraging messages display along with information about your steps taken, distance walked and more. While the rechargeable battery only lasts 14 days, you don’t have to worry about replacing the battery twice a year as you do with other devices.
Our Bronze Award winner, the Fitbit Flex 2, is a super slim, light and stylish pedometer. During testing, it was only about 25 steps off for every 2,500 we took, which is more than 99 percent accurate – one of the highest accuracy ratings in our review. This wrist pedometer benefits from the powerful Fitbit app, which is one of the very best for tracking your steps and health.
The Misfit Flash is another great option, as it’s a versatile device you can wear as a wristband pedometer or a clip pedometer. This budget option is also much less expensive than other products we reviewed but still houses the same features. This handy tracker is semi-waterproof and is available in seven colors.