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What is the Best Way to Measure How Far You've Walked?

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Updated June 22, 2014

Walk Planning and Mapping

Walk Planning and Mapping

Wendy Bumgardner ©
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How do you know how far you have walked? There are several ways to measure your walking distance, with more available than ever before thanks to mobile apps, GPS and computer mapping.

Map and Measure Your Walk Online: My walking club was preparing for our big walking events in April, laying out routes that were 10 kilometers, half marathon and marathon distances. Our trailmaster, Burt, used MapMyWalk online to draw the routes and get a distance reading as he drew them. MapMyWalk has both street view and satellite view, and he could zoom in on portions of the route that would use a sidewalk or path that wasn't along a street. How would these compare with other methods of measuring the distance?

GPS: Just a couple of years ago, you needed a special GPS unit to measure walking distance via GPS satellite technology. Today, you can download applications for many cell phones and simply use your cell phone as a GPS tracking device. I've been used AllSportGPS for the Blackberry and MapMyWalk and other apps for the iPhone. The convenience of using the cell phone apps is great, since it's likely you're bringing your phone along on your walk.

Sports GPS Watches: Garmin, Tom Tom and others make GPS watches for runners and cyclists that also work for walkers. These often display both your speed and distance and may link with heart rate monitor straps. They may be more convenient for checking on the fly compared to your mobile phone app, but they are fairly expensive. More: Walking GPS Speedometers/Odometers

Wheel It: You can drive a walking route in a car or on a bike with an odometer and measure it that way, although the distance may be off depending on whether your odometer is properly calibrated for your tire size and other factors. The "gold standard" for walking events is to use a mechanical wheel that clicks off each yard or meter. We took our mechanical wheel on the course along with my cell phone and the MapMyWalk map. All three agreed. I also drove the longer course in my car and found that my car odometer agreed very well with MapMyWalk.

Pedometer Distance: You can translate pedometer steps into distance if you know your stride length. Many pedometers ask you to measure your stride length and enter it into your user profile, then it automatically calculates distance. For this to be reliable, you need to have a very consistent stride. I use the pedometer distance reading only to get an estimate and don't rely on it as an official reading. Convert steps into miles and kilometers

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