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The Little Red Pedometer That Could

It’s a little red box that attaches to your waistband and looks like a beeper. But it’s a pedometer and it’s proving popular on Washington and Lee University’s campus this summer.

People were lined up out the door on Monday, June 8, to sign up for them, according to Patti Colliton, fitness/wellness program coordinator at W&L’s fitness center. “We ran out of them,” she said. “Human resources ordered 50 and I thought that would be more than enough. But they just went, so now I have a new batch on order.”

The reason behind this enthusiasm is a new program called Walking Works, a challenge to reach 10,000 steps a day-a standard measure of a reasonable activity level that translates into five miles. Participants use the pedometers to track how many steps they take. After one week, they get an idea of their daily average and Colliton then helps them set their goal for the six-week program. “We want people to be more aware of how active they are on a daily basis,” said Colliton.

“Usually people try to increase the number of steps they take by about 25 percent,” said Mary Katherine Snead, assistant director for work/life initiatives, who ordered the pedometers. “We loan the pedometers to participants. We bought a better pedometer at about $10 each. You can buy pedometers for just a couple of dollars but we read some research that says the less expensive ones can be inaccurate. That makes people frustrated and less likely to use them.”

Colliton pointed out that there’s also some interdepartmental challenging going on. “That’s fun,” she said. “You need something to motivate people to do more if they haven’t been doing much in the first place.”

“It’s a little friendly competition,” said Mary Woodson, publications director. “We compare how many steps we do.”

So how many steps do people take in a day?

Woodson says she does about 7,000, “but I didn’t have it on during step aerobics.”

Denise Watts, graphic designer, said she doesn’t know her average yet but thinks she’s in good shape. “I walk my dog in the morning and I do almost 10,000 steps a day. It’s amazing how many steps you take in one day.”

The walkers can track their progress online at www.walkingworks.com, where they can watch their weekly and monthly progress, track their miles and see how their group is doing.

While any increase in walking will help promote good health, says the Walking Works Web site, the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports recommends 30 minutes a day, on five or more days a week, or 10,000 steps daily, to produce the best long-term health benefits for most individuals.

Sportline makes the pedometers, and according to their Web site http://www.sportline.com/benefits.php, walking is the most popular participation sport in the world, needing no special skills, equipment or clothing.

It seems walking has many benefits besides making you feel better and increasing your energy. It burns almost as many calories as jogging, eases back pain, slims the waistline, lowers cholesterol, reduces the risk of heart attack and slows down bone loss due to osteoporosis.

“I think it’s exciting that we got this many employees, because summer is a hard time to get people to do something like this,” said Colliton.

The program ends July 24, but people can sign up for their little red pedometer at any point.