Choosing the right pedometer

By Tanya Davis | Published Wednesday, February 29, 2012

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I hope that everyone is organizing their teams of eight in order to participate in our Walk Across Texas eight-week program which begins Monday, March 5. One item that is a must for me during Walk Across Texas, is a pedometer. It helps me stay motivated and accountable.

Many of us know that Centers for Disease Control suggest that everyone should accumulate 30-60 minutes or more of moderate physical activity, such as brisk walking, on a daily basis. But how do we know if we are walking enough?

Of course, one way is to plan structured 30-60 minute walks; the focus being on getting these walks on most, if not all, days of the week. We also know, however, that there are health benefits to short bouts of activity accumulated throughout the day. One of the best ways to keep up with your effort is to use a pedometer.

Ultimately your long-term goal should be 10,000 to 15,000 steps (approximately 5 to 10 miles) per day.

A pedometer has the potential to increase awareness and amount of physical activity. It acts as a tracking device that continuously collects current activity, and it gives feedback about how many steps have been taken that day. This feedback can increase confidence and may increase motivation to achieve a certain number of steps per day.

A pedometer can also be used to help people set goals. And finally, a pedometer acts as a reminder to be active.

Pedometers can be found in many sporting goods stores. You can also buy them directly from the manufacturer.

The most important consideration when buying a pedometer is accuracy. You want a pedometer that counts your steps as accurately as possible. The simplest pedometer that accurately counts steps is all that’s truly essential.

Second to accuracy, you will want to consider comfort. If you only plan to wear the pedometer during scheduled physical activity, comfort will not be as important. But, if you plan to wear the pedometer all day, comfort is essential.

Choosing other features is dependent on your personal preferences. You might want to choose other features if they help to motivate you or keep your interest in continued physical activities. Just remember that features such as calories burned and distances covered are estimates (based on individual factors input into the device), and therefore have a larger margin of error than steps counted.

When looking at consumer ratings of pedometers, you will often read about a make and model that is accurate and has the features you want, only to find when you go to purchase that pedometer it is no longer available and has been replaced by a newer model.

To give you a starting place as a consumer, current ratings seem to consider the following brands (particular models in parentheses) to produce consistently accurate pedometers:

Making the Consumer Reports quick picks list for a good combination of accuracy, ease of use, and value were the: Omron HJ-112; Freestyle Tracer; Sportsline 330, 343, and 345; and LifeWise 63-619.5.

Remember, it’s not too late to sign up for Walk Across Texas. The eight-week walking program begins Monday, March 5. Call the Extension office at (940) 627-3341 for more information.

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