I came across this on-line news story. It concerns a study done in individuals with ‘impaired glucose tolerance’ (essentially, individuals who do not handle glucose well in the body but are not impaired enough to be classed a diabetic. The report (and other reports) say the study was published today (4th January) in the journal Diabetes Care, but I can’t find any trace of this study around now. I did, however, find this study  which the reports appear to be referring to which was published back in print in August (and on-line in July).
In this study, 87 adults with impaired glucose tolerance were managed with one of three strategies:
1. The provision of a short information leaflet about impaired glucose tolerance
2. The provision of a three-hour seminar about impaired glucose tolerance (focusing on things like cause and the potential benefits of exercise)
3. The provision of the same three-hour seminar about diabetes, plus a pedometer (that counts steps) as well as a step-per-day target.
(Sedentary individuals were encouraged to increase their activity levels by at least 3,000 steps per day, equivalent to about 30 minutes of walking. Those achieving >6,000 steps per day were encouraged to try to reach at least 9,000 steps per day, an amount that is likely to include 30 min of walking activity in addition to usual daily activity. Those achieving >9,000 steps per day were encouraged to at least maintain their current activity levels and were informed that health benefits could be achieved by increasing their activity levels further).
After a year, individuals had their fasting glucose levels measured, as well as their glucose levels after a ‘load’ of glucose was given to them. Compared to those who got just a leaflet (the ‘control’ group), those who got the three-hour seminar (without pedometer and stepping target) saw no improvement in their biochemical parameters. However, those who got the seminar, and pedometer, and stepping target did.
Those who used the pedometer saw their blood sugar levels fall by about 15 per cent. If this benefit were sustained, it would be expected to reduce risk of developing type 2 diabetes by about half, according to the authors of the study.
For a long time I have been a fan of walking, partly because of the evidence linking this activity with benefits for mental and physical health and well-being. I also like walking because it can be done by just about anyone (including those that do not consider themselves ‘sporty’), does not require much in the way of special equipment (so appropriate foot-ware is a good idea), and tends not to induce much in the way of injury (unlike more vigorous activities such as running).
This results of this study showed that those who got a pedometer and a ‘stepping target’ did actually end up significantly more active, even after one year. Which suggests that a pedometer might be a worthwhile investment for those seeking to step up (excuse the pun) their activity this year, and in future years.
By the way, this research is not the only research which links pedometer use with increased activity. See here for research from a couple of years ago which summarises the findings of several relevant studies.
1. Yates T, et al. Effectiveness of a pragmatic education program designed to promote walking activity in individuals with impaired glucose tolerance: a randomized controlled trial. Diabetes Care 2009;32(8):1404-10