June 27, 2006

Cheap pedometers may be inaccurate: study

By Charnicia Huggins

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - People who rely on inexpensive
pedometers to record the number of steps taken per day may
actually be taking fewer or more steps than they think they are
taking, according to the results of a new study. The findings
also suggest that cheap pedometers should not be used in public
health programs since they are often inaccurate.

"Researchers, the merchandising industry and possible
buyers of inexpensive step counters should be aware of the
considerable validity problems of some pedometer brands," study
co-author Dr. Katrien De Cocker, of Ghent University in
Belgium, told Reuters Health.

Ghent's public health campaign has urged people to take
10,000 steps per day and many have begun using pedometers. Some
experts considered distributing pedometers, in particular, the
inexpensive Stepping Meter, for free to help more people meet
this physical activity goal. However, this pedometer, which
sells for about 1 euro (US $1.20), has not been evaluated to
determine its accuracy.

De Cocker and colleagues recruited 35 healthy volunteers,
between 20 and 60 years old, to test 973 these pedometers. Each
volunteer tested 30 Stepping Meters, over a course of six days,
along with the Yamax Digiwalker SW-200, a pedometer known to
give highly accurate readings.

Overall, 26 percent of the Stepping Meters displayed
readings that fell within the acceptable range, which was a 10
percent or less variation from the Digiwalker reading. The
remaining 74 percent either overestimated or underestimated the
numbers of steps taken by more than 10 percent, the researchers
report in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

More than one in three of the faulty step counters diverged
from the Digiwalker by more than 50 percent. In most cases, the
pedometers displayed a reading that was greater than the number
of steps actually taken, the report indicates.

De Cocker concludes that the Stepping Meter pedometers have
"no merit in promoting physical activity because of the low

SOURCE: British Journal of Sports Medicine, June 20, 2006