10 Ways to Motivate Yourself With a Pedometer

Studies have shown that a pedometer can motivate people to walk and exercise. As pedometers evolve, they add more features beyond showing your step count. You can now get a pedometer that will message you and challenge your friends, too. The best way to boost the motivational effect is to keep records of your achievements. The app-linked and computer-linked pedometers do that for you. But if you are using a pedometer without memory features, you should use one of our walking logs to write it down.

Set a Daily Step Count Goal

Omron Alvita Ultimate HJ-329 Pedometer
Omron Alvita Ultimate HJ-329 Pedometer. Wendy Bumgardner © 2014

You can use the simplest pedometer to track your steps towards a daily goal. What should that goal be? Start with counting your normal daily steps for a few days. If it is under 10,000 steps, set your goal for 2000 more steps than your typical daily steps. That's about an extra 20 minutes of walking, or a mile more each day. Once you are able to achieve that most days of the week, set it another 2000 steps higher until your goal is 10,000 steps or more per day.

Grab a Weekly Goal

Omron Dashboard
Screen Shot by Wendy Bumgardner
Beyond one day at a time, a weekly goal can motivate you to be consistent and to get in longer walking workouts on the days you have more free time. I may not achieve 10,000 steps every day, but with a couple of longer walks on the weekend, I can make it to 70,000 steps per week. I've found myself logging miles in a rainstorm on a Saturday night to reach my weekly goal.

Earn or Burn That Donut

Weighing on Scale
Roy Hsu/Photographer's Choice RF/Getty Images

Walking to lose weight or keep it off? Many pedometers have calorie tracking modes, and you can make yourself go the extra mile it takes to reach the number of calories in your favorite treat. You can use your steps, distance or walking time with many calorie-tracking apps to ensure you are burning off what you are eating. Many activity monitors have diet diaries built into their apps, or they communicate with popular diet apps.

Compete With Friends or Frenemies

Fitbit Friends
Fitbit Friends. Screen Shot by Wendy Bumgardner

Don't let her get ahead of you! There is nothing like accountability and competition to drive us to walk more. You can log your steps on many free sites and challenge friends to do the same, tracking each other's achievements. If you use the same app or activity monitor, you can be more assured they are really walking as much as they say they are. The Fitbit app even has messaging -- you can choose to either Taunt or Cheer your friends.

Hourly Activity / Inactivity Alerts

Tractivity Hourly Detail
Tractivity Hourly Detail. Screen Shot by Wendy Bumgardner

As the dangers of sitting too much become more recognized, pedometers are adding features to remind you to get up and move more often throughout the day. These include those that have indicators per hour and those that actually vibrate when you've been sitting too long.

Turn Steps or Miles into a Virtual Trek

Webwalking USA
Webwalking USA. Wendy Bumgardner ©

Transform your daily lifestyle steps, treadmill trudges and neighborhood strolls into a walk across America. You can cart it with our Webwalking USA walk across America. Apps such as Virtual Walk take you through historic and scenic areas with your steps.

Achieve Badges

Nike FuelBand iPhone App - Three Goals Hit
Nike FuelBand iPhone App - Three Goals Hit. Nike Screen Capture by Wendy Bumgardner

Even if you weren't in the Scouts, badges are very motivating. it's fun to get a virtual badge for achieving a milestone such as 100 miles or a million steps. Making it to the next badge will get you to lace up your shoes. Many activity monitors and apps award you badges and make it easy to post them to social media so you can brag on yourself. I fell in love with the Nike FuelBand because I not only get an award when I reach my goal, it's a whole animated dance routine!

Earn Rewards

Striiv App
Striiv App. Striiv Screen Shot by Wendy Bumgardner

You can earn rewards, prizes and charity donations with your pedometer steps. The Earndit.com program links up with many popular pedometers and apps to give you discounts on fitness-related products and chances to win prizes. MapMyWalk similarly links to many pedometers and has sponsored challenges for entry in prize drawings. With the Striiv pedometer, you can earn charity donations with your steps. If you respond well to bribery (and most people do), rewards are very motivating. 

Tweet or Post Your Achievements

Man checking smartphone
© PhotoAlto Agency RF/Getty Images
Give your friends and family the opportunity to cheer you and support you with the Twitter/Facebook posting ability built into many activity monitor and pedometer apps. Maybe you'll motivate them to get off the couch, too!

Play Games

Striiv MyLand Game
Striiv MyLand Game. Wendy Bumgardner ©

Gaming is one of the habits that makes many of us sedentary. But some pedometers include games so your steps count within the game. The Striiv pedometer or app lets you play the addictive MyLand game with the "coins" you earn by walking. The Zamzee activity monitor for kids also turns steps in to games.

Build the Walking Habit

You have the tool, now you have to get moving. Learn more about building your walking habit