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Pedometers Cut Weight and Blood Pressure continued...

"Losing a BMI of 0.4 may not seem like that much to you," she says, but it was enough to get them out of the obese category in some cases, thus reducing some health risks.

On average, the systolic blood pressure (the upper reading) decreased by 3.8 points, Bravata also found. "That is a dramatic finding I think for two reasons," she says. "Those whose blood pressure reduced the most had the highest [to begin with]."

The new review makes sense, especially the part about needing a daily goal, says Cherilyn Hultquist, PhD, a visiting assistant professor of exercise physiology at the University of Tennessee Center for Physical Activity and Health.

"Even if you don't hit your goal, you are probably going to walk more than if you didn't have one," she says. Her study was one of the 26 reviewed by Bravata.

Pedometer Recommendations

Bravata says she was inspired to do the research so she could provide a scientific and accurate suggestion when her sedentary patients ask her how to boost their activity.

"I didn't recommend pedometers before," she says. She hesitated, she says, because she wanted to review the evidence. "Now I definitely do. I recommend them to my sedentary patients. I have them keep a diary [of their daily steps] and bring the diary in and we review it."

As the new analysis shows, the pedometer works best for those who are sedentary or in the low-to-moderate activity level, says Karen Croteau, EdD, associate professor of exercise, health, and sport sciences, University of Southern Maine, Gorham, whose research was also included in the new report.

"People who are already active don't necessarily need it," she says. "They might be curious about how many steps they are getting. If they are already active, it isn't going to boost their activity that much."

Spend about $10 or $15 for a good, basic pedometer, Croteau suggests. "Line it up above your hip bone, a little to the right of where a pant crease line would be," she says. "Then test it. Take 20 steps to see if it records."

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