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Pedometer Fitness Fad Takes Off

A pedometer is a small gadget that clips onto your hip and counts steps. These days, millions of people are using them, as public health campaigns and for-profit diet plans urge a daily target of 10,000 steps. NPR's Allison Aubrey reports on how this goal was set -- and whether it's worth following.

Web Extra: How Precise Are Pedometers?

Research shows that pedometers given away for free are often cheaply made and can miscount the number of steps taken by 25 percent or more, while expensive models tend to be quite accurate. Dr. David Bassett of the University of Tennessee researched the precision of pedometer models. In terms of accuracy, from best to worst, he found that the models ranked as follows:

1 - Yamax SW-200, Yamax SW-701, New Lifestyles NL-2000, Kenz Lifecorder. (Note: Yamax SW series pedometers are also sold under the following names: New Lifestyles Digiwalker, Accusplit Eagle, and Walk4Life models LS2000 LS6510 and LS7010.)

2 - America on the Move (X120), Yamax Skeletone, Walk 4 Life LS 2525

3 - Omron HJ-105

4 - Freestyle Pacer Pro, Accusplit Alliance 150, Sportline 345

5 - Sportline 330, Oregon Scientific

According to Bassett, the top-rated pedometers are those that are research-grade instruments. The second-tier ones are good choices for health promotion. The third-tier one (Omron HJ-105) works very well in lean people, but is not accurate in some obese people. "The fourth- and fifth-tier pedometers are not really ones I'd recommend," Bassett says.

Bassett says top-rated pedometers are typically sold through online sites, in an effort to hold down costs by eliminating markup. With rare exceptions, people won't be able to find the best pedometers in stores, he says.

"The pedometers sold at Wal-Mart, Target, etcetera tend to be of lesser quality," Bassett says. He recommends shopping for some of the better brands of pedometers on the Web.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Allison Aubrey is a correspondent for NPR News, where her stories can be heard on Morning Edition and All Things Considered. She's also a contributor to the PBS NewsHour and is one of the hosts of NPR's Life Kit.