A review of previous studies indicated that use of a pedometer, especially with a daily step goal, is associated with significant increases in physical activity and decreases in body mass index and blood pressure, according to a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Dena M. Bravata, MD, MS of Stanford University and colleagues evaluated the association between pedometer use and physical activity and health outcomes among adults. The authors searched databases for studies and articles on this topic, and identified 26 studies with a total of 2,767 participants that met inclusion criteria (eight randomized controlled trials and 18 observational studies). The participants’ average age was 49 years and 85% were women. The average intervention duration was 18 weeks.
In the randomized controlled trials, pedometer users significantly increased their physical activity by 2,491 steps per day more than control participants. Among the observational studies, pedometer users significantly increased their physical activity by 2,183 steps per day over baseline (2,000 steps is about one mile). Overall, pedometer users increased their physical activity by 26.9% over baseline. Among the intervention characteristics, having a step goal was the key predictor of increased physical activity. The three studies that did not include a step goal had no significant improvement in physical activity with pedometer use in contrast to increases of more than 2,000 steps per day with the use of a 10,000-step-per-day goal or other goal.
Intervention participants significantly decreased their body mass index by 0.38 from baseline. This reduction was associated with older age and having a step goal. Participants also decreased their systolic blood pressure by 3.8 mm Hg, which was associated with greater systolic blood pressure at baseline and change in steps per day.
“Our results suggest that the use of these small, relatively inexpensive devices is associated with significant increases in physical activity and improvements in some key health outcomes, at least in the short term. The extent to which these results are durable over the long term is unknown,” the researchers wrote.