Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Make Pedometers Part of Your New Year's Resolutions for Fitness

With yesterday’s news about more reasons not to spend so much time watching TV, this story from The Los Angeles Times on January 11, 2009 about the effectiveness of pedometers as a “mini personal trainer” gives one more tool against dwindling motivation levels after the New Year.

It appears that the simple act of clipping on a pedometer causes the wearer to pay more attention to walking. These little gadgets apparently have a good track record (no pun intended!) of playing a strong role in maintaining a steady focus on fitness. The article is full of stories from physicians using these small tools to Peter Orszag, who heads the Office of Management and Budget. He gave his staff pedometers in 2009 with the challenge that they all “walk the talk of fitness.” While final numbers are not yet in, progress was impressive during the last quarter of the year, according to the OMB. The best part is that pedometers are quite inexpensive, generally under $25.

Once again we find the simple may be preferable to the more complex. Pedometers are a less expensive and perhaps more sustainable ways to incorporate more activity into our daily lives. The LA Times article quotes Harley Pasternak, a Los Angeles-based personal trainer who has been studying the health habits of various cultures for his latest book, The 5-Factor World Diet. "What I found was that in the 10 healthiest countries in the world, they all have different [dietary habits]. But one thing they all share is that they all walk way more than we do in America. For those in these 10 countries, being fit and healthy is about having an active lifestyle, while here in America, being fit is about performing an exercise in a room designated for fitness."

A 2004 study confirmed that test groups using pedometers have better results increasing daily activity over those who were in so-called “time based” groups that focused on committing a certain amount of time to exercising every day.

You can find pedometers at retail sports outlets, such as Sports Authority or Dick’s Sporting Goods, or at some specialty health retailers or medical equipment stores. Try a basic one out of the gate. Test it with 20 -50 paces to be sure it is fairly accurate. After you get into the rhythm, you can find fancier models. There are plenty of reviews online. recommends Omron Pocket Pedometer HJ-112 as one of the simplest and most reliable, available for just around $23. This model has also been tested favorably by Consumer Reports.

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