I have been recording my daily steps since December 2008, when I purchased my first decent pedometer. Over the last six-plus years I have counted more than 34 million steps and maintained an average of more than 15,000 steps per day. My technology for counting steps is relatively simple: a good pocketable pedometer and a large Google spreadsheet. I record my steps every few days (the pedometer keeps track of the previous seven days) and begin again each year striving to maintain my 15,000 step/day pace.
I have used three different Omron pedometers with a great success. The differences between them are minor; what is important to me is that they have a clear display and they track steps consistently and reliably. The models I have used include the Omron HJ-203, which is small, but requires a button press to read steps or time. It also requires a paper clip or other thin wire to change the settings. I am currently using, and prefer, the Omron HJ-720, (pictured) which always displays the time and step count. It is a bit larger than the HJ-203, but the ease of display and changing settings make it much more convenient. (One additional tip: carry some extra batteries. These devices use one Energizer 2032 battery or equivalent which lasts for several months, but once the battery starts to go you will want to replace it promptly.)
When I first started using an Omron pedometer I used its Windows-based tracking software. At the time I could download steps records from the meter via a USB cable. The software captured the step data and graphed the results. As I moved to a Mac I realized I could get very similar results with a Google spreadsheet, which also has the advantage of being available from any computer on the Internet.
I started tracking my steps after talking with someone who remarked that her husband had been doing it for some time with a group of people at his office. She noted that sometimes he would walk around the house in an effort to bring his daily steps to the 10,000 count celebrated as the secret to success. A bit of research shows that the 10,000 steps per day goal was the product of a nice round number and a Japanese manufacturer of pedometers, the Yamasa Corporation. In 1965 they released a pedometer in Japan with the name of manpo-kei (literally translated as ‘ten thousand steps meter’). [Read more on this and the validity of the 10,000 steps goal in “How Many Steps/Day Are Enough?” [PDF], Sports Med journal, 2004.]
I have found that the consistent tracking encourages me to maintain the exercise. I look at errands and trips around town with an eye to how many steps I might obtain. When I worked in Brooklyn, I discovered the joys of walking over the Manhattan Bridge from my home in Manhattan. In 2011 that commute contributed to a year with more than 6.44 million steps (an average of 17,667 per day). My walking is part of my daily health regime, and always pleases my doctors when I can accurately report my levels of activity.