Pedometers: Basic tips before you use one

Pedometers can help put your health and fitness on track. But to get the most mileage out of the little movement monitors, it's important to choose and use them correctly.

The following are some pedometer tips, along with the results of our informal 1,000-step test of five models.

  • If you're a stickler for precision, check out the Japanese-made pedometers. Industry standards there require that they be accurate within 3 percent. The United States has no such requirements.

  • To get a rough estimate of your pedometer's accuracy, take it on a 100-step walk and check the gadget's total against your count. To check its sensitivity to routine daily movements, try wearing it while driving.

  • Wear it correctly. A pedometer needs to be placed on your belt or waistband, close to the body and in line with your knee. It must be kept vertical for accurate counts, so if the gauge flops over on your waistband, the reading is probably false.

  • Look for a lightweight pedometer with a large, easy-to-read digital display.

  • The clip should be large and firm enough so that the pedometer rests squarely and upright on your hip or waist.

  • Skip the bells and whistles. All you need is a step counter with a reset button. While some offer distance and calorie monitors, they have been found to be inexact and confusing.

  • Choose a pedometer with a cover to help prevent the reset button from getting bumped.

    Sharper Image Talking Pedometer (Sharper Image, $19.95)
    This pedometer "talks" to you, announcing how many steps you've taken, the distance traveled and time of day. It also offers seven irritating tunes that play in tempo with your pace and a clock with three alarm sound choices. The accuracy is a bit erratic. In one test it counted the steps exactly, and in another 1,000-step test it was off by 43 steps.

    Walk4Life Model LS2515 (Walk4Life, $27)
    This one is darn near perfect. The most it was ever off was one step out of 1,000. The numbers are huge so it's easy to read, and it offers three functions: step counter, exercise time and steps-to-mileage conversion. Available via or (888)422-1806.

    Sportline 345 (Sportline, $19.99)
    This is the pedometer most often found in sporting goods and department stores. It's also the most erratic of the bunch we tested, sometimes miscounting by more than 18 percent. This model also can keep tabs on calories burned, distance covered and time of day.

    Go Active Stepometer (free with McDonald's Go Active Adult Happy Meals)
    Although no longer offered as a free promotion, this basic step counter tested out better than some of the $20 to $30 models with lots of options. The accuracy was off by about four percent in our 1,000-step test, but was very sensitive to movement and over-counted when worn all day.

    DigiWalker, model SW 701 (Yamax, $27-$35)
    Although rated the most accurate in a University of Tennessee study, this model fell in the middle of the pack in our test and was off by about two percent. In addition to counting steps, it can estimate calories burned and distance traveled. Not carried in stores, it must be ordered through a distributor or on the Internet, such as and

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