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How Pedometers Help Walkers Stay on Track

by David Wahlberg - Cox News Service

How many steps do you take each day?

The U.S. Surgeon General recommends 10,000 steps daily, but most Americans do half that.

Pager-size devices called pedometers are helping more people hit their strides and lose a few pounds by making each step count.

"Walking is one of the easiest ways for people to get started in physical activity," said Sandra Dockett, director of chronic disease prevention and healthy aging services for the Fulton (Ga.) County Department of Health and Wellness.

A lot of people feel they don't have time to exercise, Docket said. When they use a pedometer, they discover they already walk more than they thought.

"They help you get over the guilt and make you see that you don't have to do that much more to meet the 10000 step goal," she said.

Pedometers are motivational gadgets designed to cure the ills of a society grown slothful in part because of gadgets, from garage door openers to TV remotes to "the clapper" to turn off lights.

Ranging in price from $10 to $40 (though fancy ones with pace per mile and other features can cost $200 and up), pedometers clip on and keep track of steps.

A spring-suspended arm moves up and down with each rotation of the hip. All the wearer has to do is walk.

Some count only steps, while others calculate distance, speed and calories burned. Most are accurate with step counts but can be off with other measures such as distance, which relies on inputting each wearer's average stride.

Elizabeth Graham, a 59-year-old diabetic from Atlanta, started using a pedometer this year. She walks to the grocery store, the post office and the bank. When she takes the bus, she tries to get off one stop early and walk the rest.

The pedometer "helps me be more conscious of the steps I'm taking," Graham said. "I need to stay active and use all these body parts so I can continue to have them ...."

Cobb County schools in suburban Atlanta have joined the pedometer craze, using them in physical education and science classes, said Mike Tenoschok, supervisor of health and physical activity for the district.

Pedometers level the playing field by giving students individual fitness goals, Tenoschok said.

"If you're a nonathlete, you don't have to worry about keeping up with the kids on the cross-country team," he said. And that principle works with adults, too, he said.

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