Could investing in a pedometer help you be more active?

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.

3 Responses to Could investing in a pedometer help you be more active?

  1. Chris 23 November 2007 at 10:29 am #

    There was an interesting report the other day related to this that says even simply standing up more has benefits!

    http://conditioningresearch.blogspot.com/2007/11/stand-by-me.html

  2. James H 24 November 2007 at 10:38 am #

    Chris, thanks for that link. Makes you think, esp. as people complain that they have to stand on commuter trains. Maybe I will turn up a bit later and be “forced” to stand :-)

  3. Liz 24 November 2007 at 7:35 pm #

    I’m not surprised at this research. A pedometer could be very useful for some people, as it will make them aware for the first time of what their activity level is. If the recommendation is to take 10,000 steps a day, with a sedentary jpb this can be very difficult.
    Recently in my local bank I observed the women behind the counter. They were on swivel chairs with castors (the chairs, not the women). They could move around between their work station and the rest of the office without standing up. If they needed something beyond their reach they asked one of the other cashiers to swivel across and get it. They probably arrived at work by car having taken only a few steps at either end of their journey. They will go home, stand while cooking supper, organise the kids’ homework and settle down for an hour’s TV before bed. Total activity – proabably less than 2000 steps.
    A pedometer to help them increase their activity would show them the value of parking at the far end of the car park, taking the stairs insted of the lift, walking to the local shops rather than taking the car, tanking the dog for a walk. And this accumulated exercise, over the course of time is better than sitting in an armchair. It may not be London marathon training, but it’s a start.
    Incidentally if you get a pedometer, get a good one. After buying two cheap ones that fell apart I bought one on amazon. We’ve had it long enough for the battery to be replaced and, because it was attached to clothes, it has been through the wash twice! Not part if the care guidelines, but it survived.

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