We know fitness trackers are all the rage and help people get fit. Even just simple pedometers help motivate people to walk more and meet their fitness goals. But how do these clip-ons and fitness bands actually work? What is the science that makes these little trackers count your steps? We’ll break it down for you in easy to understand terms.
How do Step Counters Work?
Before the fitness tracker and smartwatch trend started, pedometers were mostly little digital clip-on devices worn at the waist. In the pre-Bluetooth days, using buttons and the digital display you could track steps throughout the day. Some models even had a built-in memory so you could store several days of stats and challenge yourself to beat your record. Now we have fancier fitness trackers that sync with our phones to give us step counts and under fitness data. You can even buy watches with built-in step counters or your phone may count steps for you. But how do all of these devices actually know how many steps you take?
It’s all based on movement. Early forms of pedometers used a mechanical switch to detect movement, which would then count as a step. Often this was done with a small metal ball that slides back and forth or a swinging pendulum. Modern pedometers and fitness trackers use data from MEMS inertial sensors analyzed by software to count steps. These use accelerometers to detect minute movements that translate into steps (or exercises in more advanced trackers).
If you’re using a fitness tracker or watch with GPS tracking activated, the GPS will track the route you run or walk and then translate that distance into steps. This is usually the most accurate way to record steps, but GPS is only available with expensive fitness trackers and requires cellular service.
Learn more about the history of pedometers on Wikipedia
How Accurate are Pedometers?
As time goes on and our technology improves, step counters become more and more accurate. However, there are many who debate the accuracy of these devices. Generally, for typical walking on flat surfaces, all pedometers will be reasonably accurate to the number of steps you take. Clip-on pedometers worn on the waist are generally more accurate since movements of the arms or wrist can register false movements for wrist-based trackers.
A study was done on this in 2017 by Hannah M. Husted and Tamra L. Llewellyn. They filmed students walking on a treadmill for five minutes at a fixed speed of 3.5 miles per hour to determine the accuracy of four different pedometers and fitness trackers (Fitbit Charge, Omron HJ-303, SmartHealth Walking FIT, and Sportline). After counting the steps recorded in the video, the determined the Sportline was the only device that was close to the accurate count, while the other three undercounted the steps. The Fitbit was the least accurate.
We have found from our own experience that most step counters are accurate enough to give a general idea of your activity levels on a given day. Plus, the extra motivation pedometers can give to stay fit and move more is a big plus that overshadows doubts about accuracy.
Everyone wants their children to be healthy. It’s better to start those habits early and an easy way to do that is with a pedometer for kids. With the internet, iPhones, video games, and streaming TV available to most kids and teens, it’s hard to convince them to get up and go outside. With activity trackers and pedometers for kids, you can make a game of it.
By settings goals and competitions to get more steps, you can encourage healthy habits early and help kids burn energy and stay fit. There are also pedometers and fitness trackers made specifically for kids that have games and other motivations to encourage children’s activity and exercise.
If you’re looking to give your kids more technology, there are also smartwatches for kids that include pedometers and activity tracking features. This article focuses specifically on more basic pedometers and fitness trackers for kids.
Check out our comparison chart and then the reviews.
Activity Trackers for Kids Comparison Chart
Check out our comparison chart for children’s fitness trackers. If you want to read our in-depth review of each tracker, scroll down to the next section.
Garmin Vivofit JR
3.5 Star Rating
Waterproof, 1 year battery, mobile games, task timers, sleep tracking
2.5 Star Rating
Clip-on, water resistant, free app, custom reward system
The Vivofit JR is a bit fancier than most pedometers for kids, but it has a lot of features that are great for active and outdoorsy kids. The first thing that sets this apart from other kid’s fitness trackers is this fitness band is meant to be worn 24/7 and it’s waterproof. That means your kid can wear it in the pool or the bath and it will be just fine. In addition, it has sleep tracking, so you’ll know if your kid is actually going to sleep when you turn off the lights at bedtime.
This Garmin tracker is designed specifically for kids: the slip on one-piece band is comfortable to wear and sturdy to stand up to any kid adventure. The real value comes with the mobile app designed for parents. Their stats sync with your phone so you can track their activity and steps taken and then you can set goals and assign chores for your child. They earn “coins” every time they complete a chore, which can be spent on rewards managed by the parents. If your child is a procrastinator, the task timer automatically counts down to when they need to finish their chores. The app also comes with mobile games that are unlocked whenever they meet their activity goals for the day. If the rest of your kids (and the parents too!) have Garmin fitness trackers, you can compete to meet daily step challenges as a family.
The Vivofit JR is a great option if you’re looking for a fitness tracker for your kids that will motivate them to be active, do their chores, and stand up to years of wear.
Available colors: broken lava (red), digi camo (green), real flower
Notable features: waterproof 5 ATM, 1 year battery life, parental app for Android or Apple smartphones, assign chores and award coins, unlockable mobile games, set task timers, additional bands available for larger wrists, personalized watch face
The iBitz Kids Activity Tracker may look like a simple clip-on tracker at first glance, but it packs a lot of features developed specifically to motivate children. iBitz tracks their activity but also uses the love of video games to encourage their activity.
When you sync the pedometer with a smartphone, their steps are converted into rewards to unlock games and other digital rewards. Or parents can set specific rewards like screentime or a trip to the zoo that are unlocked after specific step goals are reached. Parents can also track their kids’ activity on their own Unity app.
There’s also an adult version if you want the whole family to use the same activity tracker brand and sync their data to the Unity app to compare and compete as a family.
Available colors: red, blue, pink, green, purple, orange, black
Age Range: 5+ years old
Tracks: steps, activity
Notable features: water-resistant (rain and splash-proof), durable, clip to attach to clothes or shoes, sync to parent’s Unity App, Bluetooth syncing, reward system apps
The Striiv Smart Pedometer is not specifically made for kids, but it’s ease of use and affordable price point make it a great option for kids. The Striiv features an easy to use touchscreen that displays your progress throughout the day. It’s billed as a smart pedometer because it not only monitors your steps but analyzes it to help motivate you and give feedback.
It’s perfect for kids because it doesn’t need to be synced with a smartphone. It also features motivating goals in the apps to compete with friends and family or play games powered by walking. This is an easy to use and cheap pedometer for kids or teens. Since it’s designed for all ages, it’s perfect for getting the whole family in shape. Use it on a keychain, wear it on an armband, or just put it in your pocket (you can buy an optional accesory pack with a belt clip, armband, and carabiner).
Available colors: white
Tracks: steps, stairs climbed, distance, calories burned, minutes of activity
Notable features: full color 2″ touchscreen, challenges and trophies, Myland fitness game, friends race game, walk to donate to charity, 1 week rechargeable battery
Finally the whole family can get in on the fitness fun thanks to Fitbit’s Ace tracker for kids. If you’ve already added more activity and fitness to your life with a Fitbit, your kids can get in on the fun with this tracker designed especially for children over the age of 6. With videos games, TV, and the internet stealing our kid’s attention, sometimes they need a little extra nudge to get active and stay healthy. Fitbit has designed Ace to motivate kids to reach the 60 minutes of daily activity recommended by the CDC, using 24 hour activity tracking to push them to earn daily goals and virtual badges. They can monitor their progress on the easy to read display and also get move reminders to get up and go.
The Fitbit Ace is great to inspire competition between siblings or friends. They can compete with each other on step challenges and win virtual trophies. They can also send messages and cheers to other family members to motivate each other. For parents, the new Fitbit Family accounts allow you to check in with your kid’s progress at any time. And your child can also use the app to check their stats and the badges they’ve earned. This band can be synced with the parent’s smartphone or the child’s, allowing call notifications. The Fitbit Ace packs in all the features older kids need to stay active and fit.
One thing to note: many parents have found the included band is a bit small for kids older than 6 years old. Luckily, the Fitbit Ace is compatible with third-party bands, so you can easily get a larger band with your child outgrows the included one.
Available colors: night sky/neon yellow clasp, watermelon/teal clasp
Tracks: Steps, activity minutes, sleep
Notable features: 8 day battery life, adjustable band, swim-proof, motivational messages, step challenges, goal celebrations and badges, move reminders, competitions, family messaging, silent vibrating alarm, bedtime reminders, swappable bands, 10 clock faces, iOS & Android smartphone apps with parent and child views
If you want a really cheap and basic pedometer for your kids, the OZO Fitness Pedometer is a great choice. It’s a basic step counter without any extra fluff. This tracker easily clips onto your clothes (recommended to be worn on your waistband) and counts your steps all day. It also features a 7-day recall so you can look back at your daily walking time for the past week to help motivate you. The built-in clock is convenient, especially for kids who are just learning to tell time.
The ease of use makes this a perfect pedometer for seniors, kids, or adults who just want a no-frills step counter. Since it’s not a “smart pedometer” there aren’t any fancy games or apps to help motivate your kids so there is a risk they may lose interest in it. It does make a good introductory pedometer, especially for older kids.
Available colors: blue, black, pink, purple, yellow
Tracks: steps, miles, calories burned
Notable features: Auto-shut off function to preserve battery life, low battery warning, 7 day memory log
Before fancy fitness trackers with GPS and heart rate monitors became all the rage, simpler slip on pedometers were the main way people tracked their daily step count. While you can drop hundreds of dollars on a fitness tracker with all the bells and whistles, basic pedometers and step counters are still available for a fraction of the price. There are a ton of these trackers available, so for this article, we’re focusing on the five best pedometers available for tracking steps and activity.
Many people just want to make sure they’re reaching their step goal each day as walking is their main form of exercise. They may not want to deal with the fancy features of more expensive fitness trackers. Some people do not own or do not want to have to sync a fitness band to a smartphone to see their steps. If you’re looking for a simple pedometer that counts steps, is easy to use, and does not require syncing to another device, there are many options available. Here are the best pedometers available to help you keep track of your daily walking goals.
Best Pedometers and Step Counters
OZO Fitness SC 3D Digital Pedometer
Ozo makes a very affordable pedometer that features all the basics you need in a step counter without any extra fluff. The latest design is a modern update on their previous model. This tracker easily clips onto your clothes (recommended to be worn on your waistband) or can be worn on a lanyard and counts your steps all day. The 30 day memory log keeps all your data for a month so you can keep track of your progress. The built-in clock is convenient.
If you work out at the gym, this pedometer will be able to record steps from treadmills and elliptical machines, just like normal walking. This easy to use pedometer is perfect for seniors, kids, or adults who just want a no-frills step counter. This is one of the best pedometers available at an affordable price.
Available colors: blue, black, pink
Tracks: steps, miles, calories burned, exercise time
Notable features: Auto-shut off function to preserve battery life, 1 year battery life, low battery warning, 30 day memory log, wear as lanyard or clip
This basic pedometer from Omron uses tri axis technology to give you an accurate step count from any position, whether you have it clipped to your belt, in your pocket, or held in your hand. It can also tell the difference between different types of steps, like a leisurely walk or a brisk jog, and tracks them accordingly to count how many calories are burned.
If you’re looking for 3D tri-axis sensor technology with a few more features, you may want to consider buying this step counter from 3DTriSport. Not only will this pedometer track your steps on your belt, in your pocket, or in your bag, you can also wear the included wristband while you walk or run.
This pedometer also tracks 30 days of step and calorie history–which is one of the longest we’ve seen for pedometers that don’t need to sync to a smartphone. This helps keep you motivated and on track to reach your fitness goals. Also, this is a great pedometer for walking and running.
Available colors: pink/magenta, grey/black, white, black
Tracks: steps, walking distance (miles or kilometers), exercise time, calories burned
Notable features: 30 day step history memory, belt clip or wristband
This is the fanciest activity monitor we’re going to include on this list. It does much more than a basic pedometer, but it’s affordable price point and easy to use features make it worth considering. Its wristband form is also great to consider for people who do not want a clippable pedometer.
Made from silicone, this fitness tracker has a USB connection to charge the battery and upload data to your computer. It tracks all the basics like steps and calories burned, but it has some other amazing features that usually only see in much pricier models. The OLED screen is tap enabled so you can swipe through your activity history, and also use it for text message and call notifications.
It also features sleep monitoring and a silent alarm that vibrates to wake you up. The newest version also features a heart rate monitor to give you more accurate stats. This band is also waterproof, which means you can shower and swim with it on. It’s truly a 24/7 fitness tracker.
Available colors: black, blue, red
Tracks: steps, calories burned, sleep, heart rate
Notable features: USB charging, touch/tap screen, waterproof, move reminders, find your phone, camera remote control, SMS and call notifications, sleep tracking, vibrating alarm
If you’re looking for a pedometer that’s a little flashier, has wireless capabilities allowing for more long-term tracking, but still has the basic functions of a pedometer, you should considered the Fitbit Zip.
The LCD display conveniently shows the current day’s step count and also the time. When you reach your step goal for the day it buzzes in congratulation. Sync it with the free Fitbit app and track your daily stats to improve your activity over time.
This makes a great gift for older parents who aren’t very tech-savvy but are looking for an easy way to track their activity and steps over time. Since it has the option to sync to a computer, it’s also great for people who don’t use smartphones.
You can wear it clipped to any piece of clothing: your belt or waistband, bra strap, or inside your pocket.
Available colors: blue, charcoal, lime, magenta
Tracks: steps, distance, calories burned, active minutes
Notable features: syncs wirelessly to computers or smartphones and tablets with Bluetooth, clips to clothing, displays daily step count on device, battery lasts 6 months, water resistant
Prices vary based on features, but the most basic models are quite affordable. If you’re looking at basic step counters that clip-on, usually you can find something priced between $10 – $25. The more features the pedometer has, the higher the price will be. If you are interested in pedometers with heart rate monitors
Where can I buy a pedometer to count my steps?
You can find some models at local sports and outdoors stores or general stores like Wal-Mart or Target. You will find the best selection online. Amazon has one of the biggest selections of simple pedometers and step counters. Shopping on Amazon also gives you a chance to read reviews and find the best step counter available. They also have a good return policy if you have an issue or decide a pedometer is not right for you.
How does a pedometer help people reach their fitness goals?
Many people have trouble fitting regular exercise into their days. With a lot of the population working office jobs that require sitting at a desk all day, people are more sedentary than ever. Pedometers and fitness trackers help you track how active you are each day through the number of steps you take. Once you’re aware of your general activity level it’s easy to set achievable goals to improve your daily step count over time.
Many people find pedometers and fitness trackers help them “gamify” their activity and fitness goals. By seeing in real time how close or far they are from reaching their goal, it may motivate them to take a walk in the park or take the stairs instead of the elevator. These subtle changes and choices help add extra steps and create real lifestyle changes that lead to a healthier life.
Another stumbling block for many people trying to achieve new fitness goals is being consistent with the habit. A tracker helps them set goals and track them. If they choose to be lazy on the couch one day it will show in their numbers and help motivate them to do better the next day.
This fitness tracking can also help create competition among friends or family members. Comparing stats and setting group goals is a fantastic way to be active and meet fitness or weight loss goals.
How many pedometer steps are in a mile?
While it seems like there should be a simple answer to this question, the truth is that it varies. A person’s stride length will affect how many steps it takes for them to reach a mile. On average, most people have a stride length of 2.1 to 2.5 feet. That means it takes over 2,000 steps to reach a mile. The daily goal of 10,000 steps is equivalent to five miles.
The way your pedometer measures the steps will also vary based on the brand and model you use, and also whether you’re wearing a clip on at your waist or a wristband. To figure out how many steps your pedometer registers per mile, start with your pedometer at zero and walk normally for the distance of one mile. When you finish, check the count on your pedometer. You may want to do this several times to get a more accurate number.
If tracking exact miles is important to you, purchase a pedometer like the Ozo Fitness Pedometer which tracks both steps and miles.
What are the best pedometers for kids?
If your child is older, any basic pedometer will work well to help them track their steps and be more active. Some kids, especially pre-school and elementary aged children, may not be particularly motivated by a boring step counter. There are some activity trackers and pedometers designs specifically for kids. They feature fun games and animations to engage kids and rewards systems they appreciate. They’re particularly good for motivating kids who like to stay inside all day playing videos games rather than exercise.
If you just want cheap pedometers for kids, any of the models reviewed on this page are a great choice.