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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

New Age Pedometers continued...

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.

Dieting Software

A number of new software titles have emerged to help keep various aspects of your weight loss regime on track.

How it works: These programs vary widely, ranging from providing simple nutritional data -- like calorie counts, nutrient breakdowns, and meal planning -- to sophisticated tracking of both dieting and fitness goals. Some also offer meal suggestions, exercise regimens, and daily progress reports. Many also work in PDAs.

The cost: Average cost is $35-$49

What the experts say: "By using software to track your progress over time, you can see your accomplishments in print, which can be highly motivating," says Sandon. As with food journals, Sandon says, these computer programs also raise awareness about eating habits.

Bottom line: As long as they don't dramatically increase the time you spend sitting in front of your computer (instead of outdoors moving about), these programs can provide incentive, motivation, and good information that works with most any diet program.

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