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10,000 Steps and Digital Pedometers

Most people find it difficult to make time to exercise, but exercising -- or at least, avoiding being sedentary -- is essential for weight loss and overall health. When I counsel patients on weight loss, I initially recommend small incremental changes, like not snacking between meals and walking for 30 minutes a day. I recommend small steps mainly because, for many people, they are more likely to result in sustained behavioral changes than dramatic lifestyle alterations. (Of course, for some people, more dramatic lifestyle changes may be more effective.)

For those who can't commit to walking 30 minutes a day, an alternative is to target 10,000 steps. (This is roughly equivalent to half an hour of walking). Since counting the steps yourself is impractical even for the truly obsessive, the best way to target 10,000 steps a day is to use a pedometer. From Wikipedia:
The Romans used an hodometer calibrated to steps to measure distances for military and civil purposes, though technically this is not a step counter. Leonardo Da Vinci envisioned a mechanical pedometer as a device with military applications. Later it was introduced to the Americas by Thomas Jefferson. In more recent times the device has been popularized in Japan as the manpo-meter by Y. Hatano.
Recently, I've tried the Omron Walking Style Pedometer (pictured above), which retails for about $20. While many pedometers require that you clip the pedometer to your belt, the Omron Walking Style also allows you to carry it in a pocket or bag. And it's tiny. Other useful features include a 7 day memory, mileage and calorie conversion, and a setting which allows you display the total amount and time of aerobic walking (not just, say, the amount of steps taken walking around the office).

For example, these are my readings for today, a typical work day, which included a walk from the office to the hospital:
  • 13,196 steps
  • 2733 "aerobic steps" for 24 minutes
  • 320 kilocalories
  • 2.91 miles
I'm very satisfied with the Omron and I'll be recommending this model pedometer to my patients.

More on Pedometers:

Shake Up America
10,000 Steps (Time Magazine)
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About the Author


Dr. Schwimmer's blog explores the intersection of medicine, new technologies, and the Internet.