Pedometers Get You Moving
Study Shows Pedometers Help Reduce Blood Pressure and Weight
Nov. 20, 2007 -- Wearing a pedometer and having a daily step goal can boost
your activity level, according to a new analysis of research.
"Our major result is pedometer users increased their physical
activity," says Dena Bravata, MD, senior research scientist at Stanford
University School of Medicine and a doctor in private practice in San
Francisco. With her colleagues, she analyzed 26 published studies on the
devices and the effect they have on increasing daily physical activity.
Those who wore the devices also reduced body weight and blood
pressure, she and her colleagues report in the Nov. 21 issue of The
Journal of the American Medical Association.
In all, the studies followed 2,767 participants, 85% of them women, with an
average age of 49. They participated in the pedometer and activity research for
about 18 weeks, on average.
Wearing the pedometer boosted their physical activity. "Specifically
they increased it by about 2,000 steps a day, or about a mile," Bravata
tells WebMD. That's roughly burning about 100 more calories.
The Importance of a Goal
But the goal part of the equation is crucial, she says. "Those studies
that provided subjects with a pedometer but did not ask them to meet a goal did
not result in an increase in physical activity," Bravata says. "Having
a step goal is a key component of [increasing] physical activity when using a
A total of 10,000 steps a day, or roughly 5 miles, is often recommended as a
goal when wearing the devices. The total includes "purposeful" exercise
as well as routine activity such as walking through the grocery store.
But the specific goal is not as important as having one, Bravata tells
WebMD. "We found that having any goal -- be it 10,000 steps a day or
another -- led to significant increases in physical activity."
Pedometers Cut Weight and Blood Pressure
Pedometer users also had reductions in weight and blood pressure, Bravata
found. The initial body
mass index or BMI of the study participants averaged 30, which is
considered obese. "Their average weight
loss reduced their BMI by about 0.4," she tells WebMD.
"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
"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.