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Play The Game: Wear A Pedometer

Walking is one of the safest, most effective workouts there is, and we all know we should be doing more of it. But following through isn’t always easy though a new study may hold the key to helping people take more steps every day – wearing a pedometer. The research on the effectiveness of pedometers evaluated two different prescriptions for physical activity in older patients and appeared in the respected Annals of Family Medicine.

The study on walking included 330 non-active seniors (65+) living in New Zealand whose walking rates were tracked for over a year. At the start of the study, all the subjects were considered healthy enough to be active, but most said they actually got little exercise. The subjects were randomly assigned to either be given a pedometer or not and encouraged to follow the country’s “Green Prescription” for being active. The initiative is focused on trying to get people to do at least 30 minutes of moderately intense activity every day. Both groups also got a visit with a primary care physician and a total of 3 counseling sessions by phone over the following 12 weeks. All this was aimed at getting them up and moving.

At the end of the year, both groups had gotten more active. But, those who had been given the pedometers nearly doubled – 50 minutes vs. 28 minutes – their weekly time spent walking compared to those who hadn’t gotten the devices. The older adults got more active just by wearing these devices. They could check their progress during the day against goals for being active that they’d decided upon earlier.

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Play The Game : Wear A Pedometer Continued…

Also of note, while neither group lost weight, both groups did see big improvements in blood pressure.

Why did the pedometers work? According to study lead author Gregory Kolt, the head of the School of Science and Health at the University of Western Sydney in Australia, wearing these devices does let you see how active you are. And since they are both affordable and accessible, pedometers are likely to be a great addition to public health efforts to get people up and exercising.

Pedometers are able to sense your body motion and keep count of your footsteps. That number is converted into distance by knowing the typical length of your stride. Wearing one can be a great motivator that you can wear all the time, or just when you’re out for a walk.

When it comes to choosing a pedometer, investigate the different types (i.e. accelerometer, coiled spring or hairspring mechanism), think about what you want it to do (total daily steps, workout tracking) and how you’ll wear the device. Size and comfort are key, especially if you’re tracking total steps in a day. You want a secure clip mechanism so you don’t lose the pedometer and the display should be easily read without having to take off the device to do so. Most important of all, if there’s a reset button, be sure it’s in a place where you won’t hit it by accident during your regular activities. As you might expect, there are apps that work like pedometers, but like the device itself, they have their pluses and minuses.

Science knows that being inactive is responsible for many chronic health problems, which is why your health care team are always asking about activity level. Now we see that actively keeping track of your walking might get people to do more, without even realizing it.

To your good health,