Trying to shed a few pounds? A pedometer can be a handy tool to have when you're trying to fight the battle of the bulge. Why? Pedometers give you a quantifiable measurement of your daily activities, and can motiviate you to (literally) step it up. While some pedometers solely count steps, others use the measurement of your stride to calculate distance and calories burned.
Even relatively sophisticated pedometers are inexpensive. For example, the Best Reviewed pedometer in our report, the Omron GoSmart HJ-112, will only set you back about $30. The Omron is uses a mechanism called an accelerometer that can differentiate between everyday steps (like walking to the fridge) and (like power walking or jogging). That means you'll get a more accurate estimate your calorie burn. On the downside, the Omron pedometer is pretty bulky. It will clip to a belt just fine, but might be a bit much to slide in a pocket.
For $15 to $20, you can stick with a basic pedometer. These count your steps and that's pretty much it. The Yamax Digi-Walker is an example of this type of basic model. The Yamax and other basic pedometers use a spring-suspended lever arm that registers a step when the up-and-down motion of your gait triggers a “click” against the contact. Research shows that these pedometers can be very accurate, but they must be positioned vertically on the waist in order to function properly. However, consumers who have a protruding belly may have problems with these pedometers. The reason: The pedometer may tilt forward, an action which reduces its accuracy.
In addition, the cheapest pedometers also aren’t ideal for consumers who walk very slowly (less than 2.5 mph), since there might not be enough vertical movement to register a step. Traditional pedometers can’t detect changes in exercise intensity.
Beyond these mechanics, consumers can also opt to buy wrist pedometers (though some users say the results on these models can be difficult to read) or software to transform their cell phones or ipods into a pedometer. To learn more, read our recently updated report on pedometers.