12.5.2012 | 09:39
When I bought it, it was just as a gadget, a toy. I had no expectations other than it would tell me how far it was to go to the shops now and again. I’d bought it somewhat half-heartedly, after a twenty-yard jog to the car had left me out of breath, giving me a wake-up call.
What it has done, unexpectedly, is to transform my lifestyle and have a significant effect on my well-being and health. Far from just being a toy, it has been the single greatest encouragement to regular exercise I have ever bought, far surpassing my expectations when I got it. Nearly a year later, I still cannot get enough of the simple pleasure of walking, and though the price (around £25) may have seemed a lot for such a tiny device at the time, it has been worth every single penny over and over again.
The `encouragement effect’ should not be under-estimated. The mere fact of seeing how far you have walked, and how many calories you have burned, creates a surprising incentive to go farther. If, on the way home from a walk, you see, for instance, that you have walked 9,600 steps, it’s very easy to say to yourself, `Let’s round it up to the next thousand!’, and that can lead to a detour simply to walk some more, by which time you find you’ve reached 10,800, so you walk a little more to get to the next round thousand…
Since I started walking last summer, I have now handsomely exceeded two million steps on the road, or around one thousand miles, and this alone has accounted for over five and a half kilograms of fat burning and over eighty-eight thousand calories spent. But the benefits are not just in encouraging the pleasure of walking.
I have high blood pressure, which has been treated by a range of medications taken twice a day for nearly twenty years. Without these treatments, my BP would be in the region of 200/110 (where `normal’ is 120/80), which is critically high.
One day, after some weeks of regular walking, I found myself feeling unexpectedly light-headed, and on checking my BP, found it had dropped to around 90/60. In order to restore it to the norm of 120/80, I had to progressively reduce my dependence on hypertension medications. Now, walking between 4 – 8 miles on an average day, and up to 20 miles at weekends, my BP level is around 115/75 on no medication. Another beneficial effect is that the side-effects of these medications, such as swelling in the ankles and discolouration of skin on the feet, have now almost disappeared now. The cardio-vascular benefits of the exercise can hardly be exaggerated. Walking burns around five calories per minute, so a two hour walk accounts for around 600 calories. With a little attention to diet, combined with the walking, the other significant effect is that my weight has come down from around 16 st (102 kg) to 12 st 7 lb (79.5 kg). I eat better and I feel better than I have done for many years.
The counter is very accurate. On the first day, I used it to count the number of steps to my local newspaper shop, whilst at the same time counting in my head. I counted 1250 steps. The Walking Style Pro displayed 1250 steps. The calorie counter display appears to be reliable too. I put myself on a calorie counting diet, recording everything meticulously day by day for months, including the daily calorie burn on the step-counter, and my weight loss each week was strongly consistent with that predicted for my controlled calorie intake and the calorie expenditure recorded by the step-counter.
The step-counter is supplied with a software CD and cable, which allows you to transfer the accumulated readings to your computer, so that you can see at a glance, on simple but informative graphs, how far you have walked in the last day, week, month, year, and total, together with calories burned and equivalent fat weight lost. The step-counter records two figures for steps walked per day : the first is the simple total, and the second is the number that have been walked in `aerobic mode’. This mode kicks in when you have been walking at a decent pace for around ten minutes and you are considered to be in aerobic respiration mode. The software will also download data from compatible Omron blood pressure monitors, but even if you don’t have one of these models, there is a facility to enter your BP readings manually, and these can be displayed as a graph superimposed on the steps graph.
Setting up the step counter is easy, and requires that you enter the date and time, your current weight, and stride length. There are instructions to tell you how to measure this. The step-counter only records distances in kilometres, not miles or yards, and it would have made it perfect if it had been switchable between imperial and metric, a function that is technically trivial and a surprising omission, but although it lacks this function, that’s not a reason to remove a star from my review rating. In any case, most OS maps in use these days are lined in metric intervals. There is a fudge you can do to make the readout appear in the equivalent number of miles, but it’s hardly worth doing. Note that the step-counter automatically resets its daily totals at midnight, so that you start each day afresh, though the previous information is still accessible, either with some button pushes, or via downloads to the computer.
There is a cord which can be attached to your clothing or a belt via a plastic clip, but the clip is flimsy and doesn’t give confidence that it won’t eventually break, so I attached instead a small `carabiner’ and keyring, which clips more securely to a belt loop. I then put my house key on it, making a handy combination for when I want to go for a walk, knowing that I haven’t forgotten my key. The step-counter is permanently attached to my belt now, and with my little MP3 player charged with my favourite radio broadcasts to catch up on when I’m on the road, I can’t get enough of being outdoors. My main supermarket is four miles away, and now, the car stays at home, and I take a backpack and walk.
If this step-counter encourages you to take up walking, don’t overlook the importance of proper walking shoes. They make a marked difference.
Brilliant little device. I don’t leave home without it now.