Ready to ramp up your walking routine? Here's one place you probably shouldn't cut corners: Your pedometer. Pedometers that gauge movement with a flimsy mechanism called a hairspring and that cost less than $15 (like the ones you get with fast-food kids' meals, for example) often wear out within six months and may give you wrong information, according to a recent Real Simple article.
But you don't have to spend a fortune to track your steps: Springing for just $25 should get you a more sturdy coil-spring or electronic device that lasts longer and promises better accuracy, found researchers at Montana State University.
In fact, additional stats, such as distance, speed, and calories burned tend to be inaccurate no matter how much a pedometer costs (unless it's equipped with additional instruments such as a heart rate monitor or GPS)Â—so don't be swayed by expensive devices that promise these extra numbers without the science to back it up.
Here are some of our favorite pedometers on the market, for every price point and fitness level.
- Oregon Scientific Pedometer with Calorie Counter and 7-Day Memory ($25) is a great basic model that clips to your belt and is easy enough for even the least tech-savvy walkers. If you're willing to spend up to $50, Oregon Scientific also has smaller and sleeker wrist-watch or "AnyWear" models, and models with features like an FM radio or a panic alarm.
- The Strollometer ($40) is great for new moms who want to walk off the baby weightÂ—baby in tow. It fits to any stroller with an easy to read display. While it doesn't measure steps, it will give you a good idea of your total miles traveled.
- Omron's Hip Pedometer ($17.28) clips easily to your belt and resets every midnight; it also has a 7-day memory. A larger Digital Premium model ($22) has dual motion sensors that let you carry it in a bag or purse, to track your true progress all throughout the day.
- Sportline's 303 Thinq Pedometer ($30) won Health magazine's pick for best pedometer in 2008, and it's still a favorite more than a year later. The cute, credit cardâ€“size device slips into your pocket and includes a sports timer, as well.
- Garmin's Forerunner 50 ($99â€“$199) wristwatch includes an optional heart rate monitor and "foot pod" that measures distance via GPS technology when clipped into your shoes. Data is wirelessly transferred to your computer after your workout, so you can easily track your progress.
Now that you've got your gear, the next thing you need is a great place to walkÂ—an enjoyable route that will keep you coming back and actually looking forward to your strolls. Visit MapMyWalk.com or U.S.A. Track and Field's America's Running Routes database to search for walk, run, and bike paths near youÂ—complete with user reviews and Google Maps distance calculators.
If you're looking for a workout buddy or you're ready to take things up a notch, sign up with Health's Girls Gotta Move Club: There you'll find walk-to-run transition plans and events being held around the country.
No matter what speed you walk or run, aim for a minimum of 10,000 steps a day (or five miles)Â—the amount recommended by experts to maintain good health and stave off disease.