Pedometers for Fitness and Weight-Loss Goals

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Could a pedometer be the one simple little step that takes you from couch potato to fitness fanatic? Probably not, but it's not totally out of the realm of possibility either. What it can definitely do is get and keep you motivated in your fitness goals.

It's simple: use it to find out the average steps you take in a day, and then start challenging yourself to take more and more. You could start walking on your lunch break, hop on a treadmill, or just stop looking for the closest parking spot at the supermarket. The sky is the limit as to how you can increase your steps, and the pedometer is your friendly reminder of how well you're keeping up.

Here are some tips to help you achieve your walking goals...

Take your dog for a walk in the morning. If you don't have a dog, just take a short walk in the morning (maybe ask a friend or family member to join you).

Make it a habit to choose the parking spot furthest away rather than the closest.

When you are by yourself (watching TV, talking on the phone, texting) march in place. It may sound a little silly, but think of all the extra steps you could get in.

Take a walk during your lunch break (maybe some co-workers would like to join you). If it's very cold out (or extremely hot), go to your local mall for a walk.

Take a walk with your family after dinner.

Introduce some friendly competition with your friends or family ... Who can get the most steps in a day or week (maybe there can even be a little prize).

Remember, simply wearing a pedometer isn't going to benefit your fitness routine; you actually have to use it as the tool it is designed to be. Here are a few tips for getting the most out of your pedometer...

  • Keep the pedometer close to the body and as horizontal as possible. Pedometers must be parallel to the ground to work correctly [If tilted to one side, or if it does not fit snugly next to the body, it may not be accurate.] The two most common places for accurate placement are directly above the knee or on the side over the hip. Experiment with placement to find the best spot for your body.
  • Get into the routine of putting on your pedometer first thing in the morning and for recording the steps when you take it off just before bedtime.
  • Write down the number of steps you do at the end of the day on a calender so you can chart your progress.
  • Use the first week with your pedometer to establish a baseline for comparison. Just go about your normal daily routine while wearing your pedometer (but don’t change your activity pattern). After you see what your baseline is, you can determine if you need to be more active. Then set a goal that you can reach, for example, an additional 200 steps per day. Once you reach your new goal, go ahead and set a new goal for yourself.
  • If your pedometer has a calorie counter option, don't use it. Since calories do not add up as quickly as steps do, it could become discouraging.

So those are the basics. If your adventurous, there are some ways to kick-it-up a notch (even for the kids).

I'll start by telling you about the REPLAY Activity Tracker. This isn't a pedometer, it actually tracks (in minutes) the amount of activity do. It looks like a sports watch (available in a variety of colors), and tracks your activity in 15 minute increments. Here's the interesting part, once you have achieved an hour of activity, the REPLAY gives you a code, and the code is used to earn rewards for prizes such as music, gift certificates, and more (you can even earn enough points for a Nintendo Wii). I bought one of these for my daughter (for less than $20) and she loves it. It's a great way to get the kids (and the whole family) active. Here's a quick video about the REPLAY...

The company says they will soon be coming out with a pedometer version that will count your steps and give you codes for rewards based on every 10,000 steps you take. This one is called S2HSTEP and will be geared more to the adults.

If you're into apps (and you know who you are), there are many activity tracking apps to choose from too. I'm not sure how well they work, but here's an example of one for the Android...

Activity Tracker uses GPS technology found in the Android to record your GPS tracklogs and shows duration, distance, speed and calories burned during the activity. Keep moving and help the character on the map get thinner. Pause and continue the activity anytime and mail it to your email account with tracklog.

Anyway, with all the technology out there, I'm sure we are going to be seeing many more tools for tracking both steps and activity; and that's a good thing. Anything we can do to get (and keep) ourselves and our families active and motivated is a "step" in the right direction.

Let me know what you think in comments? Have you used a pedometer? Do you find them helpful? Any tips for someone just getting started with one? What about products (like the REPLAY) that earn rewards for activity? Is that motivation or bribery? Does it really matter? Have you tried any activity apps for your phone?

UPDATE:  There's another great activity tracker, and this one is just for kids -- It's called GeoPalz and like the REPLAY it gives the child a code and a chance to earn points and prizes with the amount of activity they do.  The GeoPalz are really cute and come in many fun characters for the kids to choose from, the best part is they are only $19.99. 

Photo Credit: Tellumo.

Contributing Editor Catherine Morgan Also at Catherine-Morgan.com

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