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Skip the gym membership, get the pedometer

Flashy $3 fitness helper tracks your tracks

Ellen Warren

Shopping Adviser

1:46 PM EDT, August 3, 2011

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If you need a reminder to think twice about investing in an exercise bike or a treadmill, it's right there, sitting out on someone's lawn or driveway with a big "For Sale" sign on it.

Yes, it's yard sale season and the time of year when harsh reality collides with good intentions.

I sold both my stationary bike and my treadmill at my last yard sale — after spending a couple of years promising myself that any day I would start using them as more than a clothes rack.

That day never came.

So, learn from my big-bucks mistakes. I traded in the costly exercise equipment and instead bought a piece of plastic half the size of a deck of cards. It's a pedometer, a little low-tech gizmo you wear on your hip to count your steps. And it might be the only piece of exercise gear you really need. Mine cost $3 at Walmart.

Experts such as veteran Los Angeles Weight Watchers leader Jeri Connolly suggest you set 10,000 steps as your daily goal.

But, she says, don't fret if you don't hit that big number right away. "It's good to strive for 10,000 a day but it's important to see what you are doing," says Connolly, who joined Weight Watchers, lost 30 pounds and became a program leader 21 years ago.

One you establish a benchmark, experience shows that faithful pedometer wearers will be more conscientious about adding steps.

Instead of aimless walking, Connolly says, "Walking around your block three times is not as satisfying as having a destination" like a coffee shop or window shopping. It all adds up.

Got a bite-size tip on diet, exercise, well-being? I want to hear from you at ewarren@tribune.com.