21 November 2007

Pedometer encourages walkers

People who start a walking programme for their health get more out of it by using a pedometer, a device that counts their steps, a new study shows.

People who start a walking programme for their health get more out of it by using a pedometer, a device that counts their steps, a new study shows.

"People who use pedometers increase their physical activity by about 2 000 steps a day, about a mile," said study author Dr Dena M. Bravata, a senior research scientist at Stanford University.

"They also seem to lower their blood pressure more and lose more weight."

The conclusion, reported in the November 21 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, comes from an analysis of 26 studies with a total of 2 767 participants.

Most were observational studies, which means the researchers simply watched what the volunteers did, while eight had some scientific controls.

How the study was done
Pedometer users in the controlled trials increased their physical activity by 2 491 steps per day more than those who didn't use the devices.

The comparable increase for pedometer users in observational trials was 2 183 steps per day.

Pedometer users also had their systolic blood pressure - the higher number - fall by an average of 3.8mm.

A 2mm reduction is associated with a 10 percent reduction in stroke mortality and a seven percent reduction in death from blood vessel conditions, Bravata noted.

And pedometer users also reduced their body-mass index by 0.4 percent - about 1.2kg for an 88kg individual.

Pedometer improves motivation
One valuable input of pedometer use was that it seemed to increase motivation for more physical activity.

"The more sedentary you were, the more likely this tool was to help you," Bravata said. "The effect on workplace interventions was not as great, because the people who participate in workplace programmes are higher baseliners."

The study does have limitations, Bravata noted. Only 15 percent of the participants were men and the average duration of the trials was 18 weeks.

But it's generally agreed that most Americans need more physical activity. Two-thirds of US adults are overweight or obese, and the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that only 45 percent of Americans get enough physical activity, usually defined as at least 30 minutes a day of exercise such as walking.

Pedometer shows progress
One major advantage of pedometer use in an exercise programme is that it caters to the American quest for numbers, said James Hill, director of the University of Colorado Centre for Human Nutrition and co-founder of America on the Move, an organisation dedicated to increasing physical activity.

"We published a paper in 2003 which suggested using pedometers as tools to promote physical activity," Hill said.

"Until then, a pedometer was just a tool to measure activity. A pedometer puts physical activity in terms of a number. You can watch it and manage your day in terms of physical activity."

Pedometers can be simple and inexpensive or sophisticated and expensive, Hill said.

"I'm a simple guy, and I prefer a one-button model that simply pushes you back to zero. Some models put in stride length and mileage, but the simpler kind does very well," he said.– (HealthDay)

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