How to Pick a Pedometer

Posted in Susan Fekety on April 20th, 2009
Unless otherwise noted, © Copyright 2009 by Susan Fekety. All Rights Reserved.

It’s getting to be walking season again! One of my favorite walking enrichment tools (the other one being walking poles, on which more later) will cost you about ten bucks at Target or its equivalent and has the potential to give you a bunch of smiles in your miles. If you don’t have a pedometer yet, put it on your “go get” list! But first – some advice from the voice of experience….

There are a variety of styles; the most common is one that clips on your waistband, but there are others that you can drop in your pocket. (If you have a pocket.) (If you’re wearing a dress with no waistband and no pockets, you’re out of luck pedometer wise.)

Basic pedometers use a weighted pendulum inside that swings as you ambulate, and with each step you take your step counter goes up. Fancy models can also track the time you’re in motion, or can be set to incorporate your stride length into the counter so you also get a measure of how far you’ve walked. (I saw one recently that automatically resets itself to zero every midnight, so you get a fresh start each morning – I mean really, if you’re looking for a fitness tool in the first place, do you need to be relieved of the burden of pressing one little button?!)

For most people, it makes sense to start with just the counting facility and upgrade if you think you want more Features. Bear in mind as you consider a souped-up pedometer, which can run you forty bucks or more, is that it is woefully easy to lose them.

Speaking of loss, as you shop for your pedometer, in addition to choosing a delightful fashion color, look for a sturdy clip mechanism. Since these things are plastic, when the clip fails, you’re pretty much done with it. Models that just push down over your belt line are not going to hang onto you as securely as ones that have a spring-loaded hinge thing.

Another feature to look for (and even pay a touch extra for!) is a flip-down cover that goes over the display area of the pedometer and which covers up the reset button. Why? Because after you’ve walked and walked all over your life all day and you’re feeling really proud of yourself and can’t wait to see how many steps you’ve accumulated by the end of the day…and then you lean your vulnerable, exposed reset button on the edge of the kitchen counter, and your step credits vanish into thin air, you will be broken-hearted and who needs that? Friends, protect yourself from disappointment.

Based on studies of people who are naturally very active and lean, the general advice is to shoot for about 10,000 steps a day – around 5 miles. I say, put your pedometer on and see what’s typical for you, and then see if you can increase your steps doing simple things (parking further away from the office, walking to the grocery or video store, visiting colleagues instead of emailing them – you know the story.) See if you can add five hundred or a thousand steps a day till you’re up to 10K. Don’t be afraid to go further – just be sure to come home!