Donna Murszak, a physiotherapist in Oshawa, Ont., walks about 12,000 steps a day and also oversees a pedometer program at her workplace. She’s experimented with several brands and recommends testing your pedometer for accuracy. “Some are too sensitive and give a false idea of your activity level,” she says. “If you wiggle in your seat or even gesture with your hands, some of them record steps.” Other brands aren’t sensitive enough.
You can check your pedometer’s accuracy with the “20-step test”: Snap it onto your waistband in line with your knee, reset it to zero, and take 20 steps. An accurate pedometer will record 19 to 21 steps, a +/- three percent margin of error.
Recommended features to look out for include a hard cover to protect the face of the device and a safety strap to catch it if it comes unclipped.
If you’re overweight, be sure your pedometer is vertical and not tilting. Otherwise, your count won’t be accurate. “If you have a large waist, you might have to slide it around as far as the small of your back to get it vertical,” says Sears. Clipping it to a pants pocket is fine too, she adds, as long as it’s not an angled pocket that puts the pedometer on a tilt.
Some of the newest pedometers track steps and also “activity time” – a timer starts and stops as you start and stop moving providing information about the intensity of your exercise. “The activity timer tells you how many steps you’ve taken and the total time it’s taken to get those steps,” says Sears. If you walk 10,000 steps per day and the timer tells you it took four hours you’ll be burning more calories and getting more health benefits than someone who takes five hours to collect the same number of steps.
You can involve your friends, co-workers and family members by creating a chart and encouraging them to log their steps too. At William Mercer Academy in Dover, NL, teachers, custodians and bus drivers are tracking steps and vying for gold, silver and bronze medals. The school’s students are also collecting steps for a variety of challenges.
Walking across a map of Canada is a classic pedometer game that lets you visualize your accomplishments. Sears stores across the country sell laminated maps of Canada with the number of steps noted between capital cities. “The visual feedback of a map is really motivating,” says Spears, “And it adds an element of fun.”