Pedometers Often Inaccurate In Counting Steps - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

12/21/04-Tyler

Pedometers Often Inaccurate In Counting Steps

Taking 10,000 steps a day leads to an active, healthy lifestyle. That's the general rule among health experts. So much so, McDonald's started giving out pedometers with its adult happy meals. Also, more and more people are buying the devices, which cost anywhere from $5 to $55.

Whether you're walking down the street or running on a treadmill, every step counts.

"I have small children and I would love to know what I'm walking everyday or how far I'm going everyday," Johnnie Ganey, a Whitehouse resident, said.

Johnnie also works out at Premier Fitness in Tyler. She's thinking about buying a pedometer to see if she takes 10,000 steps a day.

We tested three pedometers: a free one made by Step With It!, the same company that makes the McDonald's pedometers; the Sportline 330, which costs about $12; and one by Freestyle, which costs about $25.

We tried the devices on Johnnie and Clay Thompson, who was working out on his lunch break.

Walking at a brisk pace of about 3.5 mph, Step With It recorded 280 steps for Johnnie, when she only took 204 steps. So the pedometer was off by 40 percent.

Running at 6.5 mph, Step With It is pretty accurate. It recorded 209 steps, when Johnnie took 204.

But when the number of steps gets much higher, you can see how the inaccuracy really adds up. Clay walked at about the same pace as Johnnie. Step With It recorded 1,327 steps. Clay took 1,460. That's 10 percent more than what the pedometer recorded.

Then clay ran at the same speed as Johnnie did. Step With It counted 402 steps. Clay actually took 505 -- a 25 percent difference.

The Sportline and Freestyle are similar in accuracy. With Johnnie, the pedometers were off by only five steps or fewer, which is virtually flawless, if you take into account the movement of hopping on and off the treadmill. With Clay, the accuracy varied more -- sometimes perfect, other times off by about 5 percent.

"Certainly if I'm going to choose one of those, the last two we tried were really close," Clay said.

But not always. If your choice of exercise is running up and down stairs, our results may surprise you. I ran 18 steps with each pedometer. Step With It and Sportline both counted only eight steps. Freestyle was closer and counted 14.

"That's terrible," Johnnie said. "I mean, if you just add up those small steps."

So the conclusion: If you walk too slowly or run too fast, your steps are more likely to be miscounted. A steady pace in between leads to better accuracy.

A recent study by the University of Tennessee got similar results as we did, comparing 13 pedometers. Some pedometers counted every step twice, while others missed one out of every four steps.

Julie Tam, reporting.

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