You may have a two thousand dollar piece of exercise equipment gathering dust in your basement as evidence of your good intentions. But if you're interested in losing weight and becoming more fit, a better investment might be a $25 pedometer.
A pedometer is a little device that you can clip on your belt or carry in your pocket to count each step that you take. You can pay as little as $3 for a basic model or as much as $40 for a high-tech device that gives readouts of miles logged and calories burned. The basic idea is to count steps and take more of them.
There's nothing magic about 10 thousand steps; there was no research to back that up as the appropriate number of steps. It's simply the Japanese term for pedometer–manpo-kei or 10-thousand-step-meter. And there is nothing difficult about step counting; in fact, the pedometer does it for you.
The idea is to exercise, and anything that motivates you to get moving is a plus. Many Americans exercise primarily to lose weight or maintain weight loss, and that in itself is a healthy goal. But the health benefits of exercise are well documented, protecting against heart disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and many cancers.
Of all exercise options, walking is the most popular, and it's certainly the most accessible. It's low cost, low impact and does not require any special training or equipment.
What Motivates You?
If you have the self discipline to follow the U.S. Surgeon General's guidelines and get out for a brisk 30- to 45-minute walk nearly every day, there is no reason to change that. If you can meet your exercise goals by having a treadmill in your basement, more power to you. Most Americans, however, are not so easily motivated, and that is the reason for the pedometer.
A review of 25 studies published in the Journal of the American Medical Association concluded that persons who monitored their physical activity by carrying pedometers increased by about 20 percent the number of steps they took each day. These individuals also reaped the benefits, showing greater decreases in blood pressure and body mass than subjects who did not count their steps.
Wearing a pedometer to measure steps is sort of like using the scales to monitor weight. Log your steps every day, and you will have a constant reminder of how active you've been. If you're trying to add to your total, you may park at the far end of the parking lot or take the steps rather than the elevator.
Japanese pedometer manufacturers used 10 thousand steps as a handy rule of thumb to promote their products. It's the equivalent of about five miles a day, and most people find that difficult to reach without one or two miles a day of walking or running for exercise.
Every two thousand steps will use up about 100 calories so don't expect dramatic weight loss unless you're calorie counting as well. But if your pedometer is accurate, and you're faithful to your plan, you are guaranteed to increase the number of calories you burn each day.
Article by Kira Oregon, MS, Coordinator of Worksite Health Promotion at Mercy Business Health Services. She can be contacted at 712-274-4261 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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