Written by Patricia Tunstall
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Pedometers may seem like simple things, but today's exercise accessories are often full-blown, full-featured, multi-function instruments that guide exercisers through their workouts. Intensity levels, heart rate, maximum heart rate, "in the zone," body mass index--these and other terms and concepts have become a daily part of the world of those who exercise with a purpose. Whether you want to manage your weight, just start moving off the couch, or want to challenge yourself by moving beyond your present fitness level, modern accessories can provide essential feedback.

Just as there are many levels of fitness--and many goals that exercisers set--there are many models of pedometers, heart rate monitors, and fitness watches that range from beginner versions with simple features, to running computers for the serious athlete in training. Many pedometers do not just count steps, although they certainly do that accurately. Advanced devices may also count your pulse and the calories you have burned, and let you listen to FM radio!

Not Just Pedometers

Hardly any modern exercise/fitness equipment is limited to the few functions that might be associated with its name. Heart rate monitors do count your pulse and track your heart rate as you exercise, but some models also signal you when you have left your heart rate zone, give you your average pulse while you were in the zone, and tell you how much time you spent in your zone. From simple to complex, pedometers and other exercise accessories give you as much or as little feedback as you want.

If you are interested in participating in the 10,000 Steps a Day program to encourage yourself to move more, you might just need step-counting pedometers. On the other hand, if you are in training for your upcoming college track and field meet, you will need a more sophisticated device. The more feedback, the better you can train. Intensity level training is dependent on detailed information about your body's responses.

Why Use Heart Rate Monitors?

The simple answer is so you won't overdo your workout and risk injury to your body or your health. The other side of the coin is that everyone tends to slack off at some point in their exercise routines without even realizing it. Heart rate monitors are intended to keep you safely on track, and so have become invaluable tools for anyone who exercises--beginners, athletes, cardiac rehab patients.

When you exercise at your intensity level, or heart rate zone, you have already computed your maximum heart rate either through a treadmill test or a formula. Hopefully, before beginning any exercise program, especially if you are older or have not been exercising much, you consult your healthcare worker for information on your condition and limits. Once you have all this data, you can target the zone you want to work in; for beginners who want to lose weight or reduce stress, working out at 50-59 percent of their maximum heart rate might be sufficient.

Famous Brand Pedometers and Exercise Accessories

Most pedometers and fitness accessories are relatively inexpensive anyway, so why not purchase them from reputable companies who have worldwide reputations in the world of athletic performance? Timex has been around forever, it seems, and Polar, Freestyle, Acumen, Oregon Scientific, Accusplit, and Cardiosport have decades of experience with exercise instruments. Their products set the standard for performance around the globe.

Timex invented the first electroluminescent watch face (Indiglo), and Polar invented the first EKG-accurate, wireless heart monitor. These companies are two of many leaders in the field of fitness electronics, which has burgeoned in recent years. The benefits--lifesaving benefits--of exercise have been publicized not only by the health industry, but by these leaders whose goal is to foster a healthier citizenry.

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