Choosing a Pedometer

Choosing a Pedometer

A pedometer is not necessary for a walking program, but it helps track progress and provide goals. There are many types of pedometers available, with prices ranging from a couple of bucks up to $100 or more. Do you need all of the bells and whistles to justify an expensive purchase? Will a cheap pedometer work just as well? How accurate are the different models? We take a look at the features you can expect to find, and sort out the helpful from the frivolous.

What can you expect to find? FM Radios, heart rate monitors, panic alarms, calorie counters, and more. You can even buy a talking pedometer, in case you can't trust your eyesight. Which features are necessary? A bare bones pedometer will provide a step counter. This is all you need to get started. You can also choose a model that converts steps to distance. Anything else is optional. If you walk in remote areas, you may want to choose a model with a panic alarm, or purchase this security device separately. You should expect to spend between $20 and $35 for a good quality pedometer.

How accurate are they? Accuracy can vary depending on a lot of factors. Some models are better designed than others. If you wear the pedometer incorrectly, it will be less accurate. The length of your stride can affect accuracy of distance, as your stride may vary from 2 feet to 2 1/2 feet. A good pedometer will let you program the length of your stride, for better accuracy. The average person covers 1 mile over 2,000 steps.

How hard and fast you walk can also impact the accuracy of your pedometer. According to David Bassett, a professor of health and exercise science at the University of Tennessee, pedometers work best "for people who walk faster and strike the ground harder. At 2 mph, accuracy is about 85 percent, and at 1 mph it may be less than 50 percent. But all are very good at 3 mph or more."

To test your pedometer, wear it while walking 100 steps. Attach it to your belt, either to the side or in front, or clip onto the center of your bra. Your pedometer should be at least 85% accurate, logging between 85 and 115 steps. If not, you should move it to another part of your body and test again, until you determine where is the best place to wear it.

Which is the best pedometer on the market? According to Consumer Reports, October 2004 issue, the highest rated pedometer is the Omron Digital Premium Pedometer HJ-112, with a retail price of $35. This model was the only one they tested that ranked "excellent" in the overall category. The runner up was the Freestyle Tracer, which was rated a Best Buy, at only $20. Both models earned a rank of "excellent" in accuracy and ease of use. The Freestyle Tracer is available online at a variety of sports specialty stores. There are around 2,000 positive reviews of the Omron on Amazon, and it's also a favorite of many 3FC members.