Using Your Pedometer

Wearing A Pedometer Can Change Your Life — Here's How

Several years ago, we purchased our first pedometer. The pedometer we purchased is of the very simple variety. It tracks steps and that's it. We didn't care about tracking miles walked or calories burned or any of the other fancy features that some pedometers offer. We purchased the basic (least expensive) model and it worked! But we learned a lot about the pitfalls of using a pedometer and we wanted to share them with you.

FIRST — We learned you can't just stick it in your pocket. You have to firmly clip it to a belt or waistband around your waist in order for it to work properly. It needs to be positioned above your hip bone because it is recording the movement of your hip as you walk. Clip it firmly — Don't let it flop around because it won't record your steps properly and you are likely to lose it.

SECOND — We wore it for several weeks and learned that in the normal course of events — just living and working — we took anywhere from 900 to 2000 steps in a day and not much more. We wanted to do better than that so we decided to set a goal to get a certain number of steps in each day — every day.

THIRD — We discovered that the pedometer works best when walking on regular terrain. It is less accurate on most gym equipment (like elliptical trainers or stair steppers). It is reasonably accurate on a treadmill. It is completely inaccurate on a bicycle.

SAFETY FIRST...

  • To avoid injury, you need to work up slowly. If you have any concerns about your joints (ankles, knees or hips) discuss your exercise plans with your physician.
  • You will need a good pair of sneakers. We actually prefer a running shoe with plenty of cushion. After several months of walking everyday, we noticed that we wear out our sneakers and have to replace them every six months or so.
  • If you experience pain or discomfort — first ask yourself — "Do I need a new pair of sneakers?"
  • If pain persists, see your doctor!

Here is how to get going with your new pedometer...

  • Start out by wearing the pedometer each day for two weeks and don't do anything to change your normal routine. Keep an exercise log next to your bed. An inexpensive notebook will do. Before you go to bed, take care to write down your steps in your log at the end of the day each day for the entire two week period. At the end of the second week, take a look at how many steps you are taking each day in the course of living your life. Perhaps on some days it is as few as 700 steps in a day and on other days, it may be as high as 2500 steps.
  • If you feel comfortable doing so, take the highest number of steps you have walked on any given day and use that number of steps as your first daily step goal. Feel free to select a smaller number of steps as your goal if you prefer. To avoid injury, do not select a higher number. Aim for your goal each day for the next two weeks. Let's assume your first step goal is 2500 steps. That means that for the next two weeks, you are going to try to walk 2500 steps each day. Before bedtime each night, be sure to log in the number of steps you actually took.
  • At the end of that two week period, review all the steps you took each day and decide if you are ready to add another 500 steps to your goal. Your new step goal is now 3000 steps a day for the next two week period.
  • Continue in that manner, working up as slowly as you wish, until you finally reach the goal of 10,000 steps a day.
  • Check with your physician if you experience any pain or discomfort that concerns you. We consider pain a warning signal that something may be wrong. Our goal is to keep you active for the rest of your life. So don't go overboard and pull a muscle that will put you out of commission. Take it slow. Take it easy.

After I have reached my goal, what then?

Whether it is 10,000 steps or some other goal, if you are reaching your daily activity goal pretty regularly, here is what you need to know:

  • It takes about six months to "lock in" a new behavior. Aim to do what is necessary to change your exercise behavior permanently. Be prepared to dedicate yourself to your daily goal each day for a minimum of six months. If you do that, you are much more likely to maintain this goal permanently.
  • If you skip a few days due to illness, work or other obligations, the sooner you get back into the exercise groove, the more likely you will be able to get back into your routine.
  • If you continue to skip days, you will discover it is a downward spiral. The more days you skip, the more likely you will abandon your program altogether.
  • If you can get back in the groove and exercise two days in a row, you will discover that the third day of exercise will be easier to achieve.
  • If you are starting to get bored, we suggest you start keeping an exercise log so you can monitor yourself. Try wearing headphones to listen to tunes or to books on tape. There are lots of ways to entertain yourself while walking.
  • If you are keeping a log but still struggling with boredom, you may be ready to think about designing a more comprehensive fitness program for yourself. Visit the Shape Up America! website [www.shapeup.org] for more information.
  • As another hedge against boredom, consider finding a buddy to exercise with or locate a few buddies you can call upon to join you from time to time. But don't let a flagging commitment on the part of your buddy influence your commitment to your goals. Be prepared to carry on alone.

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