Beginner’s Guide to Pedometers

Beginner's Guide to Pedometers

Do you plan to start a walking program? A pedometer is a great tool for tracking your steps. Learn what else this handy gadget can do.

It’s tiny enough to fit in the palm of your hand, but a pedometer can have a big impact on your health. A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that people who wore pedometers were more active than those who didn’t use them. What’s more, their increased activity led to significant reductions in body mass index (BMI). Another healthy side effect in many of the walkers: lower blood pressure.

Check with your doctor before you start any new exercise program. Then go pedometer shopping.

What to look for

Pedometers come with a variety of bells and whistles. Ask for recommendations at the store or check reviews online before you buy. Plan to spend around $20 to $30 for a quality model. Consider these factors:

  • Is it accurate? Cheap pedometers often rely on a spring mechanism to track steps. The count may not be accurate if the device isn’t worn at a right angle to the ground. Higher-end models generally use a different type of mechanism that tends to be more accurate, especially at slower speeds.
  • Is it comfortable? Traditional pedometers must be attached securely to clothing above hip level. If possible, try a few on to compare in the store. Look for sturdy clips with good traction. Some pedometers are built in to wristwatch-style devices. Avoid very bulky ones that might be cumbersome or annoying while you walk.
  • Does it have the features you need? Some pedometers just count steps. Others keep track of speed, calories burned, or miles or kilometers walked. Some even have built-in stopwatches or come equipped with global-positioning technology (handy for hikers). These functions can be confusing or distracting if you don’t need them, though.
  • Is it easy to set up? Before you can use the pedometer, you’ll probably have to enter data about your height and weight and take a sample step or two. If you don’t do this correctly, it can lead to errors in your step count.

How to make your pedometer work for you

  • Get a baseline. As soon as you’ve programmed your pedometer, wear it daily. Keep a log of how many steps you take and reset it to 0 every morning.
  • Step it up. In the study, the people who set a daily step goal reaped the most health benefits. Start with a reasonable target and gradually increase the amount of walking you do – slowly and steadily. To set a new goal, use the highest number of steps you took the week before as a guide.
  • Shoot for 10,000 steps a day. Aim to ramp up your numbers gradually until you’re taking about 10,000 steps daily. You’ll see how all those single steps – even the ones you take when you park farther from the office door or entrance to the mall – can really add up.

Having a record of how much you are walking increases the chance you will keep it up. Depending on the size of your stride, 2,000 to 2,500 steps comprise a mile. If you start slowly and have your step log to keep you on target, you may soon be walking 5 miles a day.

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