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Pedometers Get You Moving

Study Shows Pedometers Help Reduce Blood Pressure and Weight
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

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 pedometer."

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 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.

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