Steps Ahead? - Pedometer Accuracy
By Dietitian, Juliette Kellow BSc RD
Health experts recommend we walk 10,000 steps a day to keep us fit and healthy – and as a result, many of us have invested in a pedometer to help us achieve this goal. However, a new report published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine raises the question about how accurate are pedometers, particularly those that are inexpensive.
The researchers got 35 volunteers to test almost 1,000 pedometers against a sophisticated, accurate step counter. Overall, three out of four pedometers differed by more than 10 percent – the variation considered acceptable – when compared with the sophisticated step counter. Worse still, the variation was greater than 50 percent in more than one in three pedometers – and in two thirds of these, the pedometers overestimated the actual number of steps taken.
Whilst the authors recognise that pedometers are popular as a cheap and easy way to boost fitness levels or lose weight, they say, “Inexpensive pedometers provide incorrect information on step counts, which makes them inappropriate for physical activity promotion targets”. As a result, they suggest a quality kite mark would be helpful.
This is a shocking finding – an error of 50 percent in 10,000 daily steps, adds up to a massive 5,000 steps. That might be good news if your pedometer has underestimated the amount of steps you’ve achieved, so you’ve actually taken 15,000 steps. But it’s not so good if you’ve only taken 5,000 steps and believe you’ve done twice as many.
As inexpensive pedometers appear to be the worst culprits, it’s likely that those given away free or as part of a promotion are likely to be the least accurate. If you want to accurately record your step count, our advice is to spend as much as you can to purchase the most accurate pedometer.
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