Pedometer gets people up and walking
Tuesday, November 27, 2007

My workplace has made an investment and a push for all of the employees to use a pedometer. The hope is that it will increase our activity level and lead to health benefits. Is there any value in such a program?

A pedometer is a pager-sized device that counts the number of steps walked per day. The device is most commonly worn on the belt. By entering the length of your walking stride, the pedometer also can calculate your daily distance.

Pedometers have become very popular to use as both a motivator and measure of exercise. These step devices also are being more commonly integrated into other consumer devices, such as mobile phones and music players.

In the most recent issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, there was an excellent review of 26 studies looking at the effectiveness of pedometers on increasing physical activity and improving health.

The conclusion was that the use of a pedometer is associated with significant increases in physical activity and significant decreases in body mass index and blood pressure.
A closer look at the studies showed that the use of a pedometer led, on average, to an additional 2,000 steps per day (about 1 mile of walking). Setting a step goal and keeping a daily step diary were key motivators.

The most common recommended goal is to walk 10,000 steps per day. For additional health benefits, perform at least 3,000 of these steps at a fast pace.

To avoid injury, everyone should slowly work up to a goal of 10,000 steps. Most people normally walk only between 900 to 3,000 steps per day. An example of a slowly progressive walking program is to increase your daily steps by 500 every two weeks until reaching the goal of 10,000 steps per day.

There are many walking programs that can be found on the Internet. These programs allow you to keep track of your daily walking and monitor your progress.
Some pedometers also calculate the number of calories burned. Be aware that these numbers are often inaccurate.

Exercise and increasing physical activity is one of the most powerful "medications" we have to prevent and improve numerous health conditions. We should all strive to exercise for 30 minutes on most days of the week.

Workplace exercise interventions seem to work best when targeted at sedentary employees.
Don't forget to wear a good pair of walking shoes or sneakers. Also, consult with your physician before starting any exercise program.

Hope to see you all out there ... walking.

Write to Dr. Dennis Cardone at UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, Department of Family Medicine, 1 Robert Wood Johnson Place, New Brunswick, N.J. 08903. Or e-mail him at

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