Dueling pedometers

For Christmas, I gave Nebra a digital pedometer to match mine.   The pedometer is a very accurate Omron HJ-303.  She had one of those erratic pendulum pedometers and was unhappy with it.  I thought the gift would bring an even larger smile to her usually sunny face and it did.

I also thought it might be interesting if we could compare the number of steps as we marched along our separate ways during the day.  And maybe it would motivate us in our goal to reach that magical 10,000 steps every day.

“Let the competition begin,” I said as the New Year rolled in. Little did I realize what a foolish suggestion that was.  

 What competition?   Nebra has smoked me the first two weeks of the year.  She is averaging 708 steps more a day than I.  It doesn’t sound like much, those 708 steps.  It’s just over a quarter of a mile.   But they add up, as I’ve soberly come to realize.  As of yesterday, Debra’s average was 10,310 steps a day. Mine was 9,602.

Counting steps is nothing new, if my limited research is right.  The Romans did it with their own mechanized devices.  Leonardo da Vinci thought such a device would have military value.  Some credit our former president, Thomas Jefferson, for bringing pedometers to the U.S. from France at the turn of the 19th Century.

The recent popularity of pedometers in the U.S. is due to yet another foreign import, so I’ve read.   In 1965, a Japanese company began marketing a “manpo-kei.”    I believe the translation is “10,000 steps meter.”  I remember giving my suddenly health-aware father a nice pendulum pedometer for Christmas almost 30 years ago.  And now my digital and Nebra’s are made by the Omron Corporation in Kyoto, Japan, as part of its healthcare business. 

The magic of 10,000 steps is this.  It is equal to what I believe is the Center of Disease Control’s recommendation of walking five miles a day for good health.  Another website classified steps this way:  5,000 sedentary lifestyle, 7,500 somewhat active, 10,000 active and 12,500 and up, very active.  Most Americans must dedicate themselves to an extra walk or two a day to meet the 10,000.   To me, having a reliable pedometer is key. 

The HJ-303 does all but put on your socks with its four modes.  It records daily steps and keeps a memory of them for seven days.  It also zeroes out automatically at midnight and starts a new summary.  The pedometer counts the “moderate” steps separately.  If you can take 100 steps in a minute, then those are the moderate steps I’m talking about.  This pedometer also measures calories burned and computes mileage walked.  The last function is a trip meter, the only mode that can be reset.

Three times this morning on the way to the corner coffee shop, I checked for accuracy. I counted 200 steps myself, then checked the pedometer.  The pedometer’s results were 201, 201 and 200.  That’s an accuracy of 99.7 percent.  Or an error of about 30 steps in a 10,000-step day.

I’m less satisfied with the Omron’s trip button.  It seems to get increasingly hard to reset.  And the mileage is off some, though I have likely not measured my stride accurately.  Right now it has my distance at 1.2 miles, but it should read 1.5 considering I am at 3,000 steps and my usual count is 2,000 steps to the mile.  But for $40 at REI, the pedometer, my first digital, has been a bargain.

In any case I hope to start a special blog page soon, showing our household “competition” from the start of the year to its end.  I’ve even thought of a monthly traveling trophy to the winner, the trophy being kept by the yearly champion and engraved. 

No matter the outcome, I have pegged myself a winner.  The competition motivates me to a more active life.  And, I hope, to better health, though it is not bad by any stretch that I can tell.  I’m averaging 9,600 steps a day through the first two weeks.  That comes to an amazing 3.5 million steps a  year.

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