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Do you get your 10,000 steps every day? To answer this question, many people will immediately look to their wrist, where a Fitbit (or another fitness tracker) will immediately provide an answer.
These glorified pedometers now offer features ranging from basic step/calorie counting (Fitbit Zip), to models with full smartwatch capabilities (Fitbit Versa).
Fitbits are now recognized as an essential tool for anyone interested in losing weight, staying active, or becoming more physically fit. But in reality, that’s simply not true.
You Don’t Need a Fitbit…
There’s no arguing the facts. Fitbit has created a targeted product with great features that can enable some people to change their habits for the better and lead healthier lives.
But there’s also no arguing this fact: you don’t need a Fitbit to see these results. Why?
Fitbits don’t make you healthier. Evidence from scientific studies suggests that wearable activity trackers don’t have lasting results on people’s habits. And while some studies occasionally show a slight increase in user’s active minutes per day, it’s rarely enough to actually have a lasting impact on someone’s health or fitness.
Fitbit’s measurements aren’t as accurate as they’d like you to believe. See also the ongoing lawsuit regarding the accuracy of Fitbit’s heart rate tracker, and reasons your Fitbit isn’t tracking all of your steps.
Fitbits are expensive. You don’t need to spend between $70 and $250 to count your steps when there are other alternatives available for free!
…But You Do Need to Exercise
This article isn’t meant to discourage anyone from walking more and sitting less. After all, current research suggests a sedentary lifestyle is one of the biggest risks for heart disease, stroke, obesity, and death.
Your best protection against many diseases and health risks is to regularly participate in physical activity focused on endurance (150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous cardiovascular activity per week), strength, and flexibility.
Of course, changing your habits can be hard. This is why so many people are drawn to Fitbit. The product offers gentle reminders to get moving, a way to track how much exercise you’ve done in a given week, and gives you a sense of achievement when you meet your goals.
Yet most people already carry their phones with them every day, and they can track your steps using built-in motion sensors. Since we already know that wearables aren’t as accurate as they promise, and that improving your physical activity is about making overall changes in your lifestyle rather than reaching a magic number of steps, an inexpensive app can be your best bet to move towards a healthier lifestyle.
So before you spend a ton of money on a wearable band, why not look at the apps on this list first?
The Best Built-In Pedometer Apps
Want the easiest solution of all? These apps are designed to work directly with your phone.
1. Apple Health
Apple Health is a comprehensive app automatically installed on every iPhone 5s and newer. The app is a way to keep track of all your health and fitness data from a multitude of devices and apps. However, it also has a simple Steps feature that tracks your activity throughout the day.
2. Google Fit
Unlike its Apple counterpart, Google Fit is not automatically installed on your smartphone. But after installing, it’s incredibly easy to track activity of any kind. You can also track your calories burned, set goals, and check your stats online on Google Fit’s web portal.
The Best Basic Pedometer Apps
If you want a pedometer app that offers basic functionality without draining your battery life, these apps are excellent options.
Stepz is a simple app for people who just need a little extra motivation to get walking. The app offers reminders to get moving throughout your day, and shows simple visualizations of your activity habits so you can track your improvement over time. Plus you don’t even need to open the app to see how you’re doing, because your daily steps show automatically in your app’s icon badge.
Download: Stepz for iOS (Free)
Accupedo is an ideal choice for Android and iOS users who want an easy way to check their activity levels throughout the day. The app offers a widget for your home screen, daily reminders and summary emails, and an intelligent algorithm that can distinguish between walking and other activities that may cause your phone to move.
The Best Visual Pedometer Apps
If you respond better to visual presentations of data than numbers, these apps are for you.
5. StepsApp Pedometer
StepsApp offers several different visualizations of your health data, including customizable calendar views, line graphs, and a daily widget. The app offers GPS functionality for workout sessions, and a mode that tracks wheelchair pushes in lieu of steps.
Download: StepsApp Pedometer for iOS (Free)
Argus arguably has one of the most innovative pedometer app designs. The appealing honeycomb look of the app’s home screen offers you quick insight into a number of health-related data points. These include steps taken, calories burned, heart rate, caffeine intake, your daily calorie intake, and more.
The Best Route-Tracking Pedometer Apps
Interested in both how far you walk and where exactly you’ve ended up along the way? These apps offer GPS tracking functionality, but be aware that these apps may drain your battery faster than their GPS-free counterparts!
7. Map My Walk
Map My Walk (owned by Under Armour) is one of the best-known apps on this list. The app tracks your walking distance, pace, and calories burned as well as your route. You can then share your route with friends, or explore other walking routes near you for new adventures.
Walker has similar features to Map My Walk without the large focus on community interactions. You can see overviews of your activity at a glance, as well as a daily step count, and activate your GPS tracking for dedicated walks.
Download: Walker for iOS (Free)
The Best Community-Oriented Pedometer Apps
Want to really step up your step count? Challenge yourself by competing with other users in these pedometer apps.
Some of the best motivation Fitbit provides is its ability to compete with friends and family members across the globe. Believe it or not, you don’t need to purchase a Fitbit to join in.
Instead, download the app and then select No Fitbit Yet when creating an account. You will then be guided through the MobileTrack setup and can log your steps to compete in challenges using your phone’s sensor.
Want the fun of competing with others without having to interact with people directly? Quped is an app developed by researchers at the University of Glasgow. Instead of comparing you with individual people, you can see how your stats stack up with norms for people of the same age and gender as you.
Download: Quped for iOS (Free)
The Best Pedometer Apps That Reward You
Sure, being healthy is its own reward. But with these apps you can also earn reward points, discounts, or donations to charity simply by walking more. If these apps don’t inspire you to get a few extra steps in each day, we’re not sure what will.
11. Unicef Kid Power
Want a great way to teach your child about being physically active and giving back to those in need? The Unicef Kid Power app can use a dedicated wristband or your child’s phone to track activity in engaging and entertaining ways. Steps earned and challenges completed result in points that are then turned into food donations organized by Unicef.
Want a similar app targeted at adults? Try Charity Miles.
Winwalk is a basic pedometer app that transforms your steps into points, which you can then redeem for gift cards and discounts to major brands. Every 100 steps is equal to one coin, with a maximum of 100 coins per day. Rewards available are based on your location.
Download: Winwalk for Android (Free)
Other Location-Based Rewards Apps
- Carrot (sponsored by select provincial governments in Canada) for iOS | Android
- Bounts (UK) for iOS | Android
- Walgreens: (USA) Link to other apps such as Runkeeper, Google Fit, iHealth, and more.
- Sweatcoin (US, UK, Ireland) for iOS
Getting Healthy Without a Fitbit
While Fitbits are fun gadgets to have, they’re definitely not necessary for improving your health. Instead, try out one of these apps for a few weeks (or longer) to see if it provides enough motivation for you to change your physical activity habits. You can even try some Chrome extensions to help with fitness.
Still not convinced? There are a few questions you should ask yourself before you buy a Fitbit.