Clipping on a pedometer and counting steps -- even brisk ones -- isn't the end of the fitness story. "It's one thing to wear a pedometer, but it's another to have a goal in mind of how many steps you want to get," says Karen Croteau, a professor in the department of exercise, health and sport sciences at the University of Southern Maine. "These gadgets are effective when serving as a cue, but that has to be in conjunction with setting goals."
She suggests that new users monitor steps for a few days to find a daily average before upping the amount. Some fitness experts recommend adding 5% to 10% of the starting average per day, but Tudor-Locke believes that fitness levels and daily routines should be taken into consideration. "One person has to juggle child rearing while another has different lifestyle impediments," she says. "People should find out where they are and realize that more is better."
And while walking 10,000 steps a day is admirable, reaching that goal every day over a long period of time may cause a fitness plateau, in which cardio gains stop and weight sneaks back on. In that case, users must increase both steps and intensity.