Dec 2, 2007

Pedometers and Physical Activity

JAMA recently had an article (referenced below) that showed "The results suggest that the use of a pedometer is associated with significant increases in physical activity and significant decreases in body mass index and blood pressure." Overall, the pedometer users increased their physical activity by 26.9% over baseline. The person who gets the most out of the use of a pedometer is the who has a step goal (ie 10,000 steps per day).

The JAMA article also found "Pedometer users also significantly decreased their systolic blood pressure by almost 4 mm Hg from baseline. Reducing systolic blood pressure by 2mmHg is associated with a 10% reduction in stroke mortality and a 7% reduction in mortality from vascular causes in middle-aged populations; thus, it is critical that the effects of pedometer use on blood pressure be examined closely in future studies."

Perhaps you might think about getting a pedometer for someone for Christmas or even one for yourself. It does not need to be an expensive one. I use the Sportline 340 (having lost a few, they cost less to replace). I never bothered to program in my step length. I simply use it to count the steps and aim for that 10,000 mark. Most days I go past it, but there are days I have to "work" at it. Simple adjustments will add up--park the car farther away from the store, take the stairs down two flights or up one rather than using the elevator, walk one extra block, etc.

Some suggestions on getting started with your new pedometer...
  • Start out by wearing the pedometer each day for two weeks and don't do anything to change your normal routine. Keep an exercise log of the daily step count. At the end of the second week, take a look at how many steps you are taking each day in the course of living your life.
  • If you feel comfortable doing so, take the highest number of steps you have walked on any given day during that 2 week period. Use that number of steps (ie 2500 steps) as your first daily step goal. To avoid injury, do not select a higher number. Continue to keep your step log.
  • At the end of that two week period, review all the steps you took each day. If you are ready, add another 500 steps to your daily goal. Your new step goal is now 3000 steps a day for the next two week period.
  • Continue in that manner, working up until you finally reach the goal of 10,000 steps a day.
  • The goal is to keep you active for the rest of your life. So don't go overboard and injury yourself. Take it slow. Take it easy.
  • It takes about six months to "lock in" a new behavior. Aim to do what is necessary to change your exercise behavior permanently. Be prepared to dedicate yourself to your daily goal each day for a minimum of six months. If you do that, you are much more likely to maintain this goal permanently.
  • If you skip a few days due to illness, work or other obligations, the sooner you get back into the exercise groove, the more likely you will be able to get back into your routine.
  • Reaching that walking activity goal of 10,000 steps does not mean that you can increase your food intake. Continue to try to eat a healthy and reasonable portion diet.
  • So the weather's yucky, walk laps at the mall, go to a museum, or walk laps inside your home. Get up and move!

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