What is a pedometer and how do pedometers work?




fortechslims-bracelet-watchYou may not think you walk far in a day. Even if it’s around the house and garden, walking to work or visiting the local shop it’s surprising how the distance mounts up. Walking is one of the best, easiest and cheapest forms of exercise.

Measuring how far we walk couldn’t be simpler thanks to the pedometer. This clever little gadget counts the number of steps that you take. So how do pedometers work?

tony-spectacular-viewBefore we go into the inner workings of this device we need to understand body motion.

As you walk your hips lean to one side with each leg movement alternating from left to right with each step. This ‘tilting’ movement is detected by the pedometer recording each tilt as a ‘unit’ or step.

We generally walk fairly evenly with roughly the same step distance on each leg. Knowing the length of each step and the number of steps taken in a day the pedometer calculates the distance travelled.


The original pedometer was totally mechanical and worked very much like a clock with a pendulum. Instead of measuring each swing of the pendulum as a measurement of time the early pedometers recorded each swing of the leg as a step. They were fixed to the waist to allow the pendulum to swing which moved a geared cog – recording the step.



There are two types – part electronic and total electronic. Part electronic pedometers have a circuit board which incorporates a mechanical pendulum. As the body moves and tilts with each stride so the pendulum moves back and forward continually opening and closing the circuit. This is recorded in the microchip in the pedometer and converted to give step counts, distance travelled at the push of a button. The pedometer also incorporates an LCD screen to display the results.

The total electronic pedometer replaces the mechanical pendulum with altimeters. These are arranged in groups at different angles to electronically measure changes of body movement detecting changes of force very accurately.

einstien looking in amazementThe concept of measuring leg movement is very simple but has come a long way since the very early mechanical devices.

Modern specification pedometers have incredible features such as satellite navigation, heart monitoring and data analytics that would make Albert Einstein shake his head in amazement!