Now in category: Entertainment
Pedometer users walk farther, get healthier, researchers say
People who set daily walking goals for themselves and clip on a pedometer to count the number of steps they take go farther in life than those who don't - a whole mile farther, in fact.
New research from Stanford Medical School shows that people who use a pedometer walk about 2,000 steps - or 1 mile - more every day than those who don't, and along the way they lose a little weight and lower their blood pressure.
The Stanford research, published Wednesdayin the Journal of the American Medical Association, is the first to pool results from earlier studies on pedometers. Researchers looked at 26 studies during the past 40 years involving 2,767 people.
Study participants who had daily walking goals - for example, the popular 10,000-steps-a-day target recommended by many fitness programs - took about 2,000 more steps a day than they did before setting the goal. People who did not use pedometers, or who did not set a goal, did not increase their walking, on average.
"I never would have expected these results. At least for the three or four months of the average study, it's a remarkable effect," said Dr. Dena Bravata, lead author of the study and a senior research scientist at Stanford. Bravata has a private practice at California Pacific Medical Center, where she treats many overweight and inactive patients.
"My sedentary patients know they need to be doing more, but they haven't been motivated," she said. "I'm certainly recommending a pedometer and a step goal now."
In addition to walking more, study participants lost a few pounds over the course of the pedometer trials, which lasted on average 18 weeks, and their systolic blood pressure improved slightly. Researchers said they weren't convinced that the walking was directly related to the weight and blood pressure improvements.
Pedometers have become increasingly popular in recent years as a cheap, easy-to-use tool for encouraging relatively inactive people to exercise. Doctors frequently recommend them to sedentary patients, and they've become especially popular in workplace exercise programs designed to encourage employees to adopt healthy lifestyles.
The tiny devices cost between $5 and $50 - from cheap plastic toys given away at trade fairs or with a gym membership to electronic models that can be hooked up to computers for tracking information over weeks or months. The devices are usually worn clipped at the waist, and they count steps by monitoring each time a person's foot hits the ground.
Despite the positive results of the research, doctors noted that it is unknown just how useful pedometers can be in the long term. And as with just about every exercise and diet tool available, pedometers are hardly a quick-fix solution to the nation's obesity epidemic.
"The bottom line is, everything works for a month. Everything that's novel works, and as soon as it stops being novel, it doesn't work," said Dr. Robert Lustig, a UCSF pediatrician and obesity expert. "Can a pedometer help you? If you have the motivation, sure. If you don't, it's useless. So how do you get motivation? I don't know. Clearly the motivation isn't future health. We've demonstrated that."
Still, many physicians who struggle to find anything to motivate their patients hail the pedometer as a useful tool for promoting self-awareness and holding people accountable to their exercise goals.
It helps that pedometers are something that anyone can use - they're simple, and while many sedentary folks may not be ready to take up jogging or join a gym, just about anyone can get out and walk, said Dr. Scott Gee, a Kaiser Permanente pediatrician and director of prevention and health information for Kaiser Northern California.
"Pedometers for a lot of people are a good starting place," Gee said. "Most people can walk without discomfort. It works for people of all ages, except maybe kids because they tend to be really hard on them or lose them."
The Stanford researchers noted that the weight loss reported in many studies wasn't usually the result of the extra walking, leading Bravata to wonder whether people who use pedometers are also paying more attention to their diet or picking up other healthy behaviors.
Berkeley resident Megan Lynch, 42, said the pedometer she's been wearing for six months holds her accountable.
She feels guilty on days when she doesn't meet her goal of 10,000 steps a day, and she makes special efforts to get extra steps - walking down the stairs at work, for example, or walking to the post office a mile away instead of to the one around the corner.
"The pedometer makes you much more aware of how sedentary you were. You look at the numbers and it's pathetic," Lynch said. "It gives you a goal to shoot for. You pay attention, and you feel a sense of pride when you make it."
-- Pedometers are matchbook-size devices usually worn clipped at the waist. They count the number of steps a person takes based on the impact of each foot hitting the ground.
-- Prices range from about $5 to $50.
-- High-end models can measure distances traveled based on the user's stride length, and record step information over long periods of time. They can also be used with computers to track progress.
-- Not all pedometers are equally reliable, especially when it comes to measuring distance. Pedometers can be especially finicky when users are walking slowly and the foot impact doesn't register with the device.
Source: San Francisco Chronicle
More articles from category "Entertainment":
Article publication date: 20 Pluviôse Ray80 (21 Nov 2007)
COPYRIGHTED CONTENT REPRODUCED ON THIS SITE IS DUPLICATED UNDER "FAIR USE" PROVISIONS FOR PERSONAL STUDY AND RESEARCH PURPOSES.
Copyright © Cubic Awareness Online 2007