Spending a day with the wireless pedometer treadmill by Horizon

SNEWS® spent a day testing the new Horizon treadmill that allows a user to wear a pedometer and integrate the walking he or she does all day with a workout on the treadmill. How? The pedometer communicates wirelessly with the treadmill so it knows how much ground you've already covered.
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SNEWS® had a date -- a date with the new treadmill by Horizon. Of course, we were up early to make the most of our day together in late January.

If you aren't familiar with the treadmill, it is the first -- and so far only -- piece that allows a user to wear a pedometer and actually integrate the walking he or she does all day with a workout on the treadmill. How? The pedometer communicates wirelessly with the treadmill so it knows how much ground you've already covered. You can then structure your treadmill walk -- or the rest of your day -- based on how much more you want to do. Suddenly, the treadmill becomes a friend, trainer and workout advisor who can become part of your life, rather than something that only speaks when spoken to.

SNEWS® liked the idea of spending a day with the treadmill, speaking to it during all that we did even though it wasn't by our side. We knew it would know, like all good partners, what we had been up to that day. Well, only in terms of our walking activity, thank goodness.

We began the day with a pre-dawn run, dutifully clipping on our Horizon pedometer as we set off for a few miles. We knew the pedometer wouldn't be able to keep up completely since the movement of the body during running doesn't quite communicate with the pedometer mechanism as walking does. As suspected, it counted a little less than half the steps we'd actually taken, if one uses the rough translation of 2,000 steps per mile. (Of course, this technical piece of information was something we just had to know since the instruction manual actually notes one of three sensitivity settings as for "heavy walking or running," which Horizon says it will be changing since pedometers aren't made for running. There is no step length setting.)

We then headed over to a day at The Super Show with the pedometer clipped on our waist, already showing about 4,800 steps after a five-mile run. Nevertheless, this was a good start. We bounced and flounced all around the trade show floor, occasionally checking to see if the pedometer was still ticking along. Amazing what a motivator the step number can be; it becomes a bit of a game to see what you've done and if you can beat it, which is of course the point of counting steps. The method becomes a simple way for each person just to compete with him- or herself in adding more movement and activity into a day with a goal of a healthier and fitter lifestyle.

At 4:45 p.m. we stepped our way over to the Horizon booth on the trade show floor, showing 8,994 steps from our day at the show and our slightly short-changed run. We hopped onto the treadmill, hit a button and within seconds our steps showed up on the treadmill console. Knowing we already had nearly 9,000, we programmed the treadmill with a goal that day of 10,000, and off we walked. A little stick figure on the console was moving along a line toward the "goal." Our eyes were glued to him and the step count below him as the number ticked upward. About a minute before our 10,000-step goal, the little man put up his arm. We guessed in a victory pose -- or as good of a hurrah dance a stick figure can muster -- since he was about to cross the finish line. Up shot a little flag. He headed for the line. 9,980 steps...9,990 steps...10,000! Wooo-hooo! The little stick man's legs looked as if he were leaping for joy, which made us want to leap up and down too.

The treadmill, which comes with the pedometer, has been selling at select sporting goods stores (Sport Chalet and MC Sports) since late November with a list price of $1,300. The wireless pedometer was developed for Horizon since none had previously existed, although we hear that other companies may be working on similar arrangements. Since the treadmill's special feature may not be evident to consumers -- especially those shopping in sporting goods where sales help is sometimes more limited -- each treadmill has a special POP card with a large picture of an open pedometer and an explanation of the equipment's ability to communicate wirelessly with a pedometer.

"The treadmill takes the guesswork out of a 10,000 steps a day program," said Bill Sotis, vice president of product and marketing for Horizon Fitness. "You don't have to pull out a calculator or conversion chart to figure out how many steps you need to take to accomplish a daily goal. The treadmill takes care of that. Plus, you get the credit you deserve for steps taken during the day. If you had an active day, your workout on the treadmill will be shorter. If you're stuck behind a desk, or home with sick kids, you'll make up for lost steps on the treadmill later in the day. Either way, you'll accomplish your goal."

Click here to go directly to the WT 950 Treadmill page on horizonfitness.com.

SNEWS® View: We really like the idea of a person being able to really integrate exercise on a piece of equipment like a treadmill into his or her daily activity. Of course, someone can get extra pedometers if more than one person wants to use it each day. One problem was a lack of instructions as to how to access the battery compartment; a non-intuitive thumb print on the side implied the door should slide up. Nope. It slides to the side. SNEWS® wasn't the only one who had to argue with it for a while to figure out how it worked since there were no instructions in the small manual. Horizon says it will be changing that slight glitch soon too. The POP is a nice touch but the large headline reads, "It's never been easier to meet your workout goals!" That sentence could apply to any treadmill begging to be bought. We'd like to see something about a pedometer or counting steps played up larger to better entice customers. The picture of the open pedometer on the POP may mean nothing to many consumers who in fact may never have seen one. Still, this treadmill should be able to sell well. No reason why a higher-end version couldn't make it at specialty too where sales personnel could really explain the feature. This is certainly one way that manufacturers can offer equipment that becomes a part of everyday life. That fact could help consumers become more active on a daily basis, incorporating exercise on the equipment as needed to reach certain goals.

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