Sunday, May 20, 2012

Tale of the Pedometer

In this world where self-promotion has become Job 1—and the practice has captured ordinary people, so that at times I experience a bullet spray of people I’ve never met who wish to “friend” me on Facebook—I have come to question bursting health-news tips. The latest is that to live forever (meaning to reach about 80), we must take 10,000 steps a day. Fair enough. So let’s just see what that might mean. A memory came as Brigitte was telling me about this. I had a pedometer somewhere. Memory is a wonderful thing. I wonder how many “deep” memories we ought to have “daily” to avoid Alzheimer’s disease? In any case my memory produced an image of the center drawer of my upstairs desk. Quite a few odd fellows live there. Sure enough, the pedometer was there.

It happens to be an OMRON HJ-112 pedometer. We got it ages ago. A trip to Rite Aid for a new battery ($4.99), and Brigitte began to count her steps. It turned out that ordinary life produces a ridiculously low number—though Brigitte is constantly in motion all day long. Around 1,000-2,000. Eager not to miss even a few, getting ready for her aquadynamics session at home, she strapped it to her bathing suit while fetching, you know, the shoes, the towels, bag, and all the rest. But memory can also be a chancy thing. By the time she got to the pool, she had forgotten that she was still wearing it. You can guess the rest.

Now these things cost around $37-plus. So here was this thing, discovered as she was drying off, full of water. You couldn’t even see the display for the many tiny bubbles. Later I tried to dry it out in the heat of a powerful work-bench lamp, but all that did was turn the display midnight-black. So it came to rest on my downstairs desk, a simple folding table. It lay there for some days. Then, to my astonishment one morning, as I sat down to write in my diary, I saw that OMRON had miraculously recovered. Everything worked again as if the little thing had never been baptized—including its newly acquired battery.

Some things work—even these days. But we kind of wonder who came up with those 10,000 steps a day? Let’s see. There are all kinds of fancy sports-shoe producers, sweatband makers, and, also, manufacturers of pedometers. But, frankly, OMRON, if you make them that good, you’re simply missing out on sales, despite the great assist you recently got from the medical community.


  1. I wonder as well where the 10000 figure came from. That would be somewhere around five miles a day. I probably often do make that number, but it's about 1.5 miles to the grocery store one-way, a little less to the closest branch of the public library, a little more to the closest ACC campus when I'm teaching, and I walk all those places because I never drive anywhere I can walk. That's really a lot of walking, though.

    Accuracy's sometimes tricky with pedometers, since they can sometimes undercount steps depending on how they're worn and how exactly you step. (The usual way of testing is just the old-fashioned way of walking around a hundred steps and then see what the number is.)

  2. That Omron counter I use agrees with me own count. I had done just that kind of test you suggested, Brandon. My only problem so far has been the automatic reset to zero at midnight. I am a night owl and forget to check the count before midnight. So far my highest step count thus far was 6265; the average, however, is more likely around 3000 or so.
    Yes, 10,000 does seem a bit excessive for me, at any rate. Your daily routine, on the other hand, is rather a healthy one by the distances you describe. Keep on walking.


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