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High-Tech Weight Loss

Do electronic devices and services designed to help you drop pounds actually work? The experts weigh in

Online Diet Programs continued...

"While I don't think that an online program will ever replace in-person counseling with a nutritionist or physician, the anonymity of online dieting, along with the low cost and convenience, do appear to increase compliance and motivation," says Heller. And that, she notes, increases dieting success.

Bottom line: If you can't afford in-person counseling -- or it's not convenient for you -- the online weight loss community could be your new best friend. If you're spending time at your computer anyway, these web sites are bound to prove more productive than games, shopping, or even surfing. And who knows? You might make some great friends, too.

New Age Pedometers

These New Age pedometers measure how many steps you take -- and a lot more!

How they work: Like ordinary pedometers, they strap onto your belt to track your steps. But some of the newer versions go the extra mile to calculate all your activity. The Bell Total Fit Pedometer has both walk and run mode, plus a step counter, and a calculator for total distance, speed, and calories burned. The SportBrain 1 step X1 has a similar setup, plus a computer USB cable that connects you to a web site where you can download software to chart your progress, along with other motivational tools.

The cost: $30-$40

What the experts say: "A pedometer is only going to give you a rough estimate of the number of steps you're taking and if you change your cadence, or stop and go, they all lose sensitivity," says Schlifstein. So, he says, if you're walking around town, or going up and down stairs, they may be a waste of time. "I don't recommend any pedometers for weight loss," he says.

Sandon says pedometers can be good motivators but cautions that accuracy depends on correct placement of the device. "It has to go on or near the hip in order to register the movement of a stride," she says.

Bottom line: One of the best things about pedometers, whether high-tech or the ordinary kind, is that they can shock you into realizing just how sedentary your life is. Even a rough estimate of how much you move, compared to the suggested 10,000 steps a day, could motivate you to get up off the couch.

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