Pedometers: Friend or Foe?

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Are pedometers your friend or foe? Our Walking for Health Manager, Frances Bain, explores this disputed topic.

We’re a big fan of counting steps here at Paths for All. Our hugely successful Workplace Step Count Challenge and our Community Pedometer Packs have proven first-hand the difference having a visual aid and a tangible goal can be in increasing your activity levels.

As a charity, we champion everyday walking as the best way to achieving a happier and healthier Scotland. It’s something that almost all of us can do and it’s the easiest thing to fit in to our daily routines despite the ever-present work and family demands and the pull of the dreaded sofa!

Although we’re a fan of counting steps (which as a health intervention is backed up with lots of research based evidence) we’ve never been a supporter of the 10,000 steps message. As the recent news coverage points out, it’s not based on any scientific research at all and was developed only as a catchy marketing slogan. The 10,000 steps message falls down because it’s not an individualised approach - and we’re all individuals!

What is important is taking steps to achieve the recommended 30 minutes of moderate physical activity on at least 5 days a week to keep you healthy and well. The key thing to remember is the importance of ‘moderate’ activity. This is activity that gets you a little warmer and makes you breathe a little harder. For the average person, that recommended 30 minutes of physical activity is around 7,000 steps.

No matter how active or inactive you might be, the crucial thing is to try and do a little more and build up your activity. For some people who are just starting out, walking for just a couple of minutes or a few hundred steps is a real achievement. The real benefit in using a pedometer or other fitness tracker is the ability to see a quantifiable measure of our current activity levels and then to be able to use that as a basis to increase or maintain that level. I’m sure I’m not the only one after a day working from home, I’ve clocked up less than 300 steps between the kettle and my desk! There’s nothing like seeing that figure to motive you to get out after work and get some steps in! For some of us it’ll be trying to increase it to 500 steps, for others it’ll be 5,000.

By all means, if 10,000 steps works for you in terms of getting you moving more and reaching that magic 30 minutes a day, then brilliant stick to it (although don’t forget the ‘moderate’ bit). But if it seems like it’s not even worth trying as it’s too unachievable, then just remember every journey starts with a single step. Any increase in the amount of physical activity you do has huge benefits for your health. Pedometers and fitness trackers are a great tool to support that journey, so happy stepping!

Get in touch to see how we can support you to get more active at

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