When was the last time you stood up?
Research has shown that movement every 30 minutes is important for overall health. Pedometers can help you make sure you’re taking steps all day long.
The good news is that your phone works surprisingly well in this role. Researchers at the University of British Columbia found that the iPhone’s built-in pedometer was as accurate as a research-grade pedometer for a moderate-to-brisk walk.
Of course: You have to use a pedometer for it to, you know, work. That’s the great part about opting for an app versus buying a whole new gadget. Most of us are glued to our phones. Chances are, it wouldn’t take much of a behavior change to get you used to using a pedometer app on your phone.
Here are the best free pedometer apps we’ve found.
iPhone Apple Health App
If you have an iPhone, you already have a pedometer and it talks directly to the built-in Health app. You may need to activate motion tracking, which is in your settings under privacy and “motion & fitness.” The Health app will show you how many steps you average, and whether you’re on track to meet or exceed your average steps for the day. Yes, it’s somewhat basic, but it’s free and already installed.
Available for iOS and Android, this pedometer keeps the annoying ads to a minimum and has all the features you need. One that’s a must is the daily goal. Research has shown that pedometers alone aren’t really that motivating, but people who set a daily step goal stay more motivated. When you download HealthTracker the step goal will be set at 6,000, a good goal that is easy to hit (and your phone dings victoriously when you do). Overachievers can toggle that number all the way up to 40,000.
This app interfaces with an iPhone and has a cool streak feature, which lets you see how many days in a row you’ve met your goal. When you’re three weeks into a streak, you’re more likely to be motivated not to break it. Also cool is that Pedometer++ tallies how many miles you’ve walked over time, so you can see exactly when you’ve walked 500 miles and then when you’ve walked 500 more.
This Android app chirps every few hours to remind you to drink water while also counting your daily steps. Each day you hit your goal, you get a blue ribbon—perfect for those who need a daily attaboy. If you’re more motivated by looking back to see how far you’ve come, you can also use the app to track your steps over the past week, month and year.
Built in partnership with the American Heart Association, this app is surprisingly comprehensive for a free service. You can track your daily movement on both your phone’s built-in pedometer and GPS, leading to more accurate readings. The app also can differentiate between low heart rate and high heart rate activities, meaning it knows when you’re just walking to the kitchen for a snack and when you’re doing burpees. (Google knows everything!) You can set targets for both low- and high-intensity work, so if you’re a fan of HIIT workouts, this is probably the app for you.