A pedometer is a device that is capable of measuring the distance traveled by a person for a given period. A pedometer is the size of a pager or cell phone, and it is worn on the hip or secured by way of a belt to the person's body. The pedometer is calibrated to the user's stride length to provide an approximation of distance traveled; pedometers are most accurate when used to determine distances walked as opposed to running.
As a pedometer is a digital instrument, it may be readily integrated into other forms of biofeedback, including a heart monitor. The pedometer can also measure average rates of speed. Some models of pedometers also have a feature that determines the number of calories consumed by the user through the time period in which the pedometer is worn.
While a pedometer is not a device commonly used by serious or elite-level athletes, it is a powerful motivational tool for many recreational athletes or persons interested in improving the general standard of their personal fitness. When people do not have an interest in conventional exercise programs, such as team sports, running, or fitness classes, or where they have impediments to participation as a result of lifestyle or employment commitments, the pedometer can serve to provide an ongoing incentive to incrementally boost the amount of physical activity in which they engage on a daily basis.
Pedometers have become sufficiently popular that research has determined some rough guidelines for the person seeking improved fitness. Ten thousand steps per day is now cited as a target for those who seek to maintain a base level of cardiovascular fitness and weight control; for the average person, 10,000 steps is approximately 5 mi (8 km) of total daily movement. When a person seeks to lose weight and obtain enhanced cardiovascular risk reduction, the suggested targets are 12,000 steps to 15,000 steps per day (6-8 mi [10-13 km] of total daily movement). For additional cardiovascular fitness, it is recommended that the user walk 3,000 of the target step distance at a quick pace without stopping (1.5 mi or 2.5 km).
In recent years, formal walking programs have gained popularity, especially among people with a history of heart problems. "Mall walkers" is a generic term that is frequently applied to walkers who use indoor shopping malls to walk in a controlled environment.