Could investing in a pedometer help you be more active?

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Regular readers of this site will know that I’m a relative fan of activity, and in particular relatively ‘doable’ and sustainable forms of activity such as walking. Just last week, for instance, I reported on a study which found that regular walking was associated with a significantly reduced risk of cardiovascular disease in diabetics. Walking outside may confer particular benefit, as it generally means increased exposure to sunlight, which is likely to have a positive impact on both psychological and physical wellbeing.

I was therefore interested this week to learn of a study which sought to assess the relationship between pedometer (a device which counts steps) and activity levels [1].
The researchers who undertook this study examined two types of evidence: randomised controlled trials (where individuals where instructed to use a pedometer and others were not) and observational studies (where activity levels were compared in pedometer users and non-users in a population). There results showed that:

In randomised controlled trials, pedometer users walked an average of about 2500 steps a day compared to non-users.

In observational studies, the average increase in steps in pedometers users was about 2200 steps per day.

Overall, pedometer use was associated with about a 27 per cent increase in physical activity.

Pedometer use was also associated with a statistically significantly reduced systolic blood pressure (3.8 mmHg on average) and body mass index (0.38 on average which equates to a little more than a Kg).

What was also interesting about this study, is that it found that increased activity was especially likely in individuals who had a goal of walking at least a set number of steps a day (e.g. 10,000 steps per day).

Overall, the results of this research suggests that investing in a pedometer and have a daily stepping target might help to motivate individuals to be more active over time. Obviously, owning and using a pedometer is not a prerequisite for an active life, but for some, it seems, may derive health benefits from such a device.

Pedometers tend to vary quite a lot in terms of accuracy. The researchers of this study found that pedometers tend to be most inaccurate at low walking speeds (i.e. 2 miles and hour and less). The accuracy of pedometer can be quite easily assessed by walking and counting the steps for, say, 100 steps, and then comparing to that to the tally on the device.

More To Explore

Walking versus running

I recently read an interesting editorial in the Journal of American College of Cardiology about the relative benefits of walking and running [1]. The editorial

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