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Are Pedometers Accurate?

Fitday Editor

Many people use their pedometers every day to keep track of how many steps they take from morning until night. Some use them only when they are walking or jogging. Many people consider those little clip-on devices a valuable asset in their fitness arsenal. However, some people wonder about the accuracy of pedometers. Some factors that can affect the accuracy are the type of pedometer used and even the fitness level of the person wearing it.

Spring Pedometers

There are two types of spring pedometers available. There is one that has a very thin spring that moves a tiny bar to count your steps. This is the most economical pedometer. However, the trade off is that the thin spring can become looser with a lot of use. Once the spring becomes loose, the accuracy of the pedometer drops.

The other spring type pedometer has a coil in place of the bar. The coil spring can maintain its accuracy longer because it is less susceptible to becoming loose. This makes the coil spring pedometer more accurate for longer than a thin spring type.

Electric Pedometers

There is a piezo-electric pedometer that has no spring inside. These pedometers are thought to be accurate for longer since there are no moving parts that can wear out.

Global Positioning/Speed Distance Pedometers

The global positioning pedometers generally give pinpoint accuracy on distance traveled. However, using a GPS pedometer is adversely affected if you are walking among tall objects that can block the positioning system.

Speed distance meter pedometers are very accurate. However, changing elevation of terrain can interfere with the accuracy.

Locations Used

Whether you are walking or jogging on a level surface or going uphill can affect your pedometer's accuracy. If you are going up a challenging hill or a rocky surface you may take smaller steps. In some cases the steps may be too small to register on the pedometer.

Fitness Levels

Ironically, pedometers are more accurate when they are worn by people who are thin. This is because pedometers generally are worn hanging from your belt. They need to hang in a straight line in order to be accurate. People who are heavier will be unable to keep the pedometer from tilting which can affect accuracy. Also, heavier people may walk slower with a shorter stride. This can make it difficult for the pedometer to register the steps.

Researchers have found that the accuracy of pedometers varies widely. Some types are 97 percent accurate. However, some types can be inaccurate half of the time.

Generally, the cheapest pedometers are the least accurate. The high-end GPS pedometers are not worth the money unless you are using them in an unobstructed area. Remember that they can be obstructed by tall buildings just as much as by trees. This can make the GPS type as unreliable in an urban area as in a rural one.

For first time buyers either the coil spring type or the piezo-electric are more durable and accurate and do not cost too much. You should be able to buy one of those for less than $20.

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