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Pedometer News You Can Use

March 14, 2011 Written by JP       [Font too small?]

How many steps do you take on any given day? Most people can’t answer that question with any sense of accuracy unless they use a pedometer. Up until this past Saturday, I know I couldn’t tell you how many times my feet moved forward or backwards per day. No clue. 1,000 steps? Possibly. 4,000 steps? Maybe on a good day. Well, on Saturday the figure was 8,670 steps. To be more specific, that was the total number of steps I took while at the Anaheim Convention Center – the site of this year’s Natural Products Expo West.

A theme that I keep coming back to on this site is that of mindfulness. Being aware of what you do, feel and think is vitally important to mental and physical health. In almost every case, mindfulness doesn’t require much expense, but it does necessitate an active commitment to face facts. A pedometer is an inexpensive and practical way to evaluate just how active you are in terms of overall movement. It provides an objective figure rather than having to rely on an otherwise subjective perception.

Three recent publications in prestigious medical journals support the value of using a pedometer as part of comprehensive exercise and wellness programs. But before we delve into the actual facts and figures, first I’d like to offer some background information about the use of pedometers in modern medicine. Step counting devices have mostly been investigated in relation to cardiovascular health and weight management. The general consensus is that a decline in daily steps taken is contributing to many of the leading causes of illness spanning the globe in the 21st century. Current estimates indicate that a typical adult in the US takes about 5,900 to 6,900 steps daily. On the other hand, cultures living a traditional lifestyle, such as the Amish, take about 14,000 to 18,000 steps a day. (1,2)

  • In January 2011, a study presented in the British Journal of Sports Medicine evaluated the effects of giving a pedometer along with exercise counseling in 152 inactive patients. Over the course of six weeks, a 103% improvement in weekly physical activity was reported. It’s also promising to note that the physicians overseeing the patients reported that they were “highly satisfied with the intervention and partnership”. (3)
  • The November 2010 issue of the Journal of Physical Activity & Health studied the physiological impact of a 12-week pedometer program in a group of “sedentary overweight women” at risk for metabolic syndrome. A control group of inactive women was used for the sake of comparison. The active pedometer users demonstrated several key benefits not seen in the inactive participants: a decline in body mass index, fasting glucose, resting heart rate and systolic blood pressure. (4)
  • In August 2010, a publication in the journal Patient Education and Counseling presented perhaps the strongest validation of pedometer use yet. The trial in question recruited 92 adult diabetics and randomly assigned them to one of two groups for 24-weeks. The first received a face-to-face counseling session, instructions on how to use a pedometer and several telephone support calls. The second group continued their normal, sedentary lifestyle. The findings reveal that the pedometer-assisted program increased the daily step count by 2,744 steps/day and physical activity by 23 minutes/day in those in the intervention group. A one year follow up examination determined that many of the gains reported at the 24-week mark were still present. (5)

How Active Are You?

Source: Curr Cardiovasc Risk Rep. 2010 July; 4(4): 271–276. (link)

In order to get the most accurate readings possible from a pedometer, you need to know where to place it on the body. Mrs. Healthy Fellow and I learned this firsthand over the weekend. I positioned my pedometer just above my hip. My wife also affixed her pedometer at waist-level, but closer to her stomach. Although we walked a comparable distance, the readings we registered were quite different indeed. According to our Saturday totals, I walked an additional 2,000+ steps! This was obviously a positioning problem. We verified and remedied the problem on Sunday’s visit to Expo West. While this was news to us, pedometer positioning has been an issue of consideration for researchers for quite some time. Here are some of the highlights of that specific line of inquiry: 1) placing a pedometer in the front pant pocket increases the risk of erroneous readings; 2) bra straps and shoe placement are not an “equitable alternative site compared with (pedometer) waist placement” in women; 3) those with “high waist circumference” will find more accurate step-counts by utilizing a posterior pedometer placement. (6,7,8)

Upon visiting a doctor, many patients are warned about impending danger if they don’t make certain dietary and/or lifestyle changes. Increasing your physical activity is usually among the top recommendations. My suggestion to my physician friends is: incorporate pedometers into your practice. Instead of just prescribing medications, why not prescribe physical activity benchmarks? The gain is self evident. What’s the harm? None that I know of. However, since many doctors aren’t doing this yet, it’s incumbent upon us to take the first step – if inactivity is a problem. But don’t just wear a pedometer and occasionally glance down at the numbers. Instead, try keeping a record of your daily step count in a journal and see what it reveals about you. Analyze what factors contribute to days when you move more and days when you’re more sedentary. Knowledge and mindfulness is the key, because you can’t change what you don’t know.

Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!

Be well!

JP

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3 Comments & Updates to “Pedometer News You Can Use”

  1. vadim Says:

    Excellent article as usual and very useful, practical and doable aproach you recommend. If I can put my two cents in, brands of pedometers make a huge difference. I tried many of them before a freind of mine recommended one made by Omron. They are the best, simply the best. No matter where I place them they always give me an accurate reading. How do I know? I walk with a friend of mine, sorry, more like, used to walk with my friend around a golf park which is exactly two miles in distance. Given my COD I measured the distance with my prius and it confirmed it at two miles. When first buying a pedometer one needs to calibrate a stride distance and its not hard at all to do. I am sure all pedometers come with explanation, it literally takes a minute. So every single time I walk around that golf park with my Omron it is always about 4.000 steps give or take a few. And two thousands steps for an average walker is a mile, unless you walk like a kengaroo or trying to power walk. I can provide a link for people to check it out and review it on Amazon. I really highly recommend it and it does come with an interactive program that lets you track your progress. Thanks for the article!

    http://www.amazon.com/Omron-HJ-720ITFFP-Pedometer-Advanced-Management/dp/B003U3HMN2/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1300151328&sr=8-2

  2. JP Says:

    Many thanks, Vadim. An excellent account. Incidentally, Omron was one of the brands tested in the positioning section of this column – the “pant pocket” study or footnote #6.

    Now the only thing left to say is: it’s time for you to start walking again! :)

    Be well!

    JP

  3. JP Says:

    Updated 11/27/15:

    http://jah.sagepub.com/content/early/2015/10/15/0898264315609905.abstract

    J Aging Health. 2015 Oct 20.

    Associations of Daily Pedometer Steps and Self-Reported Physical Activity With Health-Related Quality of Life: Results From the Alberta Older Adult Health Survey.

    OBJECTIVE: The aim of this article is to examine associations of self-reported physical activity (PA) and pedometer steps with health-related quality of life (HRQoL) among a population-based sample of older adults.

    METHOD: Adults ≥55 years (N = 1,296) were recruited through random-digit dialing and responded to a questionnaire via computer-assisted telephone interviewing methods. Questionnaires assessed demographic variables and validated measures of PA and HRQoL. Participants received a step pedometer and waist circumference tape measure via post.

    RESULTS: Compared with participants in the low-step group (0-6,999 steps/day), participants in the high-step group (>10,000 steps/day) had significantly higher scores on mental health (Mdiff = 3.1, p < .001, confidence intervals [CI] = [1.8, 4.3]), physical health (Mdiff = 3.5, p < .001, CI = [2.2, 4.7]), and global health (Mdiff = 3.5, p < .001, CI = [2.3, 4.7]). Waist circumference and body mass index did not moderate any associations of pedometer steps and PA with HRQoL.

    CONCLUSION: Older adults exceeding established step thresholds reported significantly higher HRQoL indices compared with those achieving lower thresholds.

    Be well!

    JP

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