If it really does deliver on everything it promises to do, the Apple Watch could revolutionize fitness tracking as we know it. But if you, like me, aren't about to shell out $350 for something that, if it follows in the footsteps of other fitness trackers, probably won't even work that well, there's a solution that, compared to Apple's latest offering, costs mere pennies.
My pedometer cost 99 cents. I spent more on shipping -- worth it, to me, because I love the simplicity of a 99-cent pedometer and how obvious it makes my lack of a desire or a need for anything more high tech.
There's nothing whatsoever that's fancy about it. Many models only offer one function: to display steps taken. "Deluxe" versions might offer that tracking in miles or kilometers or calorie expenditure as well, but in my experience, the wider the range of functions, the less likely they are to be accurate.
But that's the beauty of it. With only one figure to pay attention to, comparisons are easier to draw and goals are easier to set. You've probably heard the classic recommendation to aim to take 10,000 steps a day. While it's certainly a good goal, I like using my pedometer to set basic expectations -- and make sure I meet them.
For example, I know that if I work from home I miss out on the walk to and from the subway during my commute. I miss out on the walk to and from the office kitchen and restroom, since at home in a New York City one-bedroom apartment, both are significantly closer. Then there are days when the weather is too nice to sit still, and I can rack up steps without considering it "fitness" for a (New York) minute. What I'm really looking for is the average day to fall somewhere squarely in between those extremes.
Pedometer users also have some serious bragging rights: We tend to be more active, and we report weight loss and greater energy. But the benefits are biggest among people -- like with just about anything -- who set specific goals and monitor their progress. "[J]ust having a goal seems to help them stay motivated and improve their physical activity," Dena Bravata, M.D., MS, Stanford Health Policy Adjunct Affiliate, who has examined the benefits of pedometers, said in a 2007 statement.
Because their sole purpose is to track steps, pedometers show even the smallest changes in physical activity. You can't get distracted by other bells and whistles, so instead you'll see the difference taking the stairs instead of the elevator truly makes.
On days when my step count has been ultra-low, I may or may not have even resorted to marching around the apartment, because ticking off more steps has become a real-life video game in which I regularly attempt to beat my high score.
My ultimate (and highly unrealistic) goal: Reach 99,999 steps in a day, the biggest number my pedometer can display before having to reset.