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I Bought a Step Counter, Now What?

Everywhere you look, you can “spy” someone wearing a pedometer/accelerometer wrist band or watch. They’re all the rage, right?!

But, what happens when you don't know what to dow with your new device? I encounter this often with many clients, some who have them sitting in the box for weeks to months, to even a year.

I also encounter many people who put it on, like jewelry, and simply look at their steps versus setting a goal that will push them outside their comfort zone. Well, I challenge you to get to know your step counter!

Did you know I’ve been wearing a pedometer since 2002?! Yes, you read that correctly. 2002?! And I still wear it every single day because it keeps me honest and keeps me moving, especially on days I don’t want to.

Why have I been wearing one for 14+ yrs?! Well, I did my Master’s Thesis on Pedometers at PSU before many people even knew what they were. I didn’t even know what it was, but my advisor had been wearing one and suggested I do my thesis on them. I still remember that he was an avid runner and would get on the treadmill at school to reach his goal of 14,000/day (running: that’s a LOT). After I did my thesis, I quickly became obsessed, in a good way and worked them into client programs immediately!

From that time forward I carried the very best pedometers around for 10+ years and now I love and use a fitbit. I actually bought one of the first models right when it came out, thanks to my friend telling me about them, and I’m only my 2nd one.

The study I did in 2002 involved nurses, who walked WAY more than I realized. At first I thought, “Oh no, well there goes my hypothesis - that overweight nurses would get less steps than normal weight nurses”… but then in the end, I got a statistically significant result and some very cool findings I did not expect. ALL nurses walked well over the 10,000 “recommended health steps/day” but which group walked more and what did that mean?


So you bought a step counter, now what? And the other important question that follows: So, how many steps should YOU be getting?!

Like many other nutrition and fitness questions I get, there is no simple answer to that without knowing you and asking many more questions. Easy answer: Come see me and we’ll personalize your step goal; because truly, there’s more to it than a simple general, broad number.

With every client I first start with this: setting up YOUR step counter. Let's get it out of the box and onto your body!

Then, I suggest that individuals wear their awesome new device for 1-2 weeks while doing “normal activity”, to get a baseline, while noting any "extra activity".

From there, we determine a personalized Goal #1 based on the following:

- Average baseline steps

- Health and weight goal

- Possible medical issues

- Additional exercises level

- And more....

Once this first goal becomes normal (and easier) it’s generally recommended to increase steps 500-1000 per week and then over time, get to a larger and larger goal

that is attainable. It’s rare that someone walks through my door and we set a goal of 10,000/day, but then again, it depends on their baseline.

"Counting your steps provides insight into your daily activity. You can see if you sit too much or whether you're particularly active. Step counters also allow you to look at the overall activity level of some workouts and sports."

Stack Fitness

When I put on my first pedometer back in OHSU days, I was SHOCKED at how FEW steps I was getting.

If I didn’t make it to the gym, and walked from my car and to work (which was rather far), I could arrive home with 2000-3000 steps/day. Yep, a measly 1 mile. Well, that was NOT going to cut it for this goal oriented, high achiever.

Here's what I did instead:

I quickly changed my lifestyle. Instead of a long lunch, I started taking 2-3, 15 min walk breaks, taking my co-works with me (great time to catch up), and over time my goal became to leave work with a minimum of 6000 steps/day (approximately 3 miles) and then head to the gym, if I could. I did this for years, as I worked at OHSU for over 8 yrs. After that, I continued to meet my goals but had to adjust my plan and lifestyle to get there.

Today, my daily step or mile goal depends on what else I’m doing during the day for activity. If I take a class or lift weights, my step goal is less, depending on my energy level and how hard my workout was. If I do nothing except speedy Gonzales walk (catch me if you can), my goal is approximately 10,000 steps/day (with a stair goal too), and I LOVE seeing 12k or higher. I still love seeing that RARE 18-20K when I go to the beach or go camping and purposely walk and walk, and…WALK!


There are many ins and outs of step counters, like:

- What is your first personal step goal?

- How to keep track of your goals and adjust them over time?

- How many steps are in “your mile”? - How to identify your total goal based on various activities?

- How to wear them?

I'd love to help you get to know YOUR step counter, how to use it and how to achieve your goals with it!

Also, I work in goals for activity minutes, calories burned and/or steps climbed (I personally love this last one as a goal!). Click here to set up an initial appointment that is sure to involve a conversation about your overall activity level, aka: steps!

I look forward to working TOGETHER, toward your optimum health!

Provided by Lila Ojeda, MS, RDN, CSCS, RYT, CLT Registered Dietitian Nutritionist * Personal Trainer * Yoga/Pilates Contact: 503.789.9707 * LO Solutions: Improving Lives Since 2000!

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