Pedometers: HighGear, Accusplit

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With the increasing promotion and public awareness of walking during the day for health and fitness gains, the awareness and popularity of pedometers has also risen as a way to monitor that activity.

There are a lot of step-type monitors on the market, from cheap units for a couple of bucks to high-tech ones that can ding you for up to $50. What's the difference? Which ones are better?

The basics: The less expensive ones have little pendulum-like gadgets that are rocked back and forth by your body's movement to "count" steps. Problem is, the less expensive the pedometer gets, the less accurate the pendulum technology. We have used the ones that were given for free from McDonald's and just turning in your office chair counted as steps, meaning a user could be mislead as to how much activity they were really getting. More expensive ones that still use pendulums are more accurate, and the really expensive ones that use computer chips and high-tech devices are the most accurate.

That brings us to the two we tested (one each from HighGear and Accusplit), which are on both ends of the good-to-better spectrum with various levels of extras such as watches or chronographs. We tested them in a variety of settings, in walks, on runs, inside, outside, going up stairs and inclines, and going down stairs and declines. We even wore them all day to track daily activity. By the way, we don't believe the ones you can find for $5 or even less are much more than toys.

HighGear is a techie company that makes MP3 players, Global Positioning Systems, altimeter watches and such stuff for gearheads. Now comes the Fitware line that includes some high-tech pedometers too, ranging in price from about $30 to $45.

The Fitware line of pedometers will be the most accurate in counting your steps since the motion-sensor technology employed by HighGear tends to ignore general jiggle and wiggle movement, such as a turn in a chair or a reach for a cabinet. It clips firmly to your waistline or belt. The Fitware PR model we used also has a watch, stopwatch (chronograph), finger-tip pulse meter, alarm and, of course, the step-counting tool.

If you aren't at all tech-oriented, this may not be the unit for you since, although not highly complicated, it still involves setting features, inputting personal data, and figuring out four buttons that are as good as unlabeled since the print is simply the tiniest of tiny type that is black on black and utterly impossible to see.

Now, that said, once you get this baby going, you're going to get the best reading of real steps during your day. Even the fingertip pulse -- a measurement not known for being super exact -- isn't bad for ballpark readings. You can change the battery yourself; the pedometer is slightly rubberized in finish for easy grip; and it has a backlight. The numbers on the readout also face up once it's on the belt so you can look down for an easy fix. Another model comes with a radio, and a simpler model for $15 less comes without radio or pulse meter.

SNEWS® Applause Meter: 4.5 hands clapping (1 to 5 hands clapping possible, with 5 clapping hands representing functional and design perfection)

Suggested Retail: $45

For more information:www.highgear.com or 1-888-295-4949

Accusplit pedometers are slightly lower priced, with the Eagle 180 Activity Pedometer hitting the middle of the company's pedometer assortment. Accusplit also makes stopwatches, timers and other such gear, including electronics for sports and colleges.

If all you want is no-brainer, the Accusplit Eagle is for you. You set the time, your stride length, clip it on your waist, zero it out with a push of one button, and you're on your way. It also has a stopwatch (chronograph) and says it measures distance in miles.

This model has a leash so you can secure it to your waist with a second tether. A good thing too since we have dropped pedometers on the floor when going for bathroom breaks or simply adjusting pants -- don't ask. Its buttons are well-protected by a flip front that you pop open and look down on the counter inside to check your status. It also has a five-year no-proof-of-purchase-needed warranty. Now THAT'S cool.

In wearing the two pedometers simultaneously, we did find the Accusplit picked up more random movement here and there, sometimes as much as 20 percent more during a day. But if you were just walking from point to point, the two measured insignificantly different step counts.

Bottom line is, a pedometer is motivation. In fact, we got a little addicted to it ourselves and were astounded how much (or how little on some days) movement we got. Either way you go, you'll make the right investment.

SNEWS® Applause Meter: 4 hands clapping (1 to 5 hands clapping possible, with 5 clapping hands representing functional and design perfection)

Suggested Retail: $27.50

For more information:www.accusplit.com or 1-800-935-1996

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