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Pedometer Total Daily Steps vs. Dedicated Walking Time - Which Works Better?

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Updated March 15, 2014

Omron Alvita Ultimate HJ-329 Pedometer

Omron Alvita Ultimate HJ-329 Pedometer

Wendy Bumgardner © 2014

Which is a better goal to motivate people to walk more -- total daily steps or only counting walks of 10 minutes or more? A small research study published in November 2007 sought to answer that question. The study participants were sedentary people with diabetes. Walking for 30 minutes a day is a basic exercise recommendation for all healthy adults, and especially for those with diabetes. Would giving them a structured goal to walk in bouts of at least 10 minutes at a time be better than giving them a goal of increasing their total daily steps by whatever means? Would they just end up logging "junk steps" if not encouraged to walk for 10 minutes at a time?

Counting Every Step Leads to More Dedicated Walking Time

One study group was encouraged to walk more total daily steps. The other group was encouraged to walk for dedicated walking times, such as 10 minutes. They found that both groups increased their dedicated walking distance by about a mile a day. In order to fit in enough steps to meet the goal, they had to set aside time for walking. But those who had all of their daily steps counted felt more satisfied than those who were only able to count their dedicated walking time. The study concluded, "Pedometer-based walking programs that emphasize total accumulated step counts are more acceptable to participants and are as effective at increasing moderate intensity bouts of physical activity as programs that use structured goals."

Omron Pedometer and Motivational Web Site

The study participants were all given an Omron pedometer that uploaded to a web site to track their steps and give them goals to achieve. The pedometer was probably similar to the Omron HJ-720ITC. The Omron pedometer tracks both total daily steps and aerobic walking time and aerobic steps. Using a computerized pedometer is a convenient way to track walking activity.
Computer-Linked Pedometers

Pedometers are Great Nags

A review of pedometer research studies has shown pedometers to be excellent motivators to increase daily physical activity. From personal experience, having a daily or weekly total steps goal increases my walking time. Making small changes to add short walking bouts can help throughout the day can help such as taking the stairs rather than the elevator or parking further from the door. But these rarely add up to the big goal. In order to log 10,000 steps per day, most people have to add dedicated walking time to their schedule. A nagging pedometer is just the motivator needed to encourage them to do that.

Get Started Pedometer Walking

Sources:

Caroline R Richardson, Kathleen S Mehari, Laura G McIntyre, Adrienne W Janney, Laurie A Fortlage, Ananda Sen, Victor J Strecher, John D Piette. "A randomized trial comparing structures and lifestyle goals in an internet-mediated walking program for people with type 2 diabetes." International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity. 16 November 2007, 4:59doi:10.1186/1479-5868-4-59.

Dena M. Bravata; Crystal Smith-Spangler; Vandana Sundaram; Allison L. Gienger; Nancy Lin; Robyn Lewis; Christopher D. Stave; Ingram Olkin; John R. Sirard. "Use of Pedometer Associated With Increased Physical Activity, Decreased Blood Pressure and Weight." JAMA. 2007;298(19):2296-2304.

"Walking: A Step in the Right Direction." NIH Publication No. 07–4155. September 2004. Updated March 2007.

Marshall, Simon J.; et.al. "Using Step Cadence Goals to Increase Moderate-to-Vigorous-Intensity Physical Activity." Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: March 2013 - Volume 45 - Issue 3 - p 592-602. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e318277a586

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