The benefits of regular physical activity for people with diabetes are well proven, but many individuals struggle to keep up with the recommended targets each week.
The results of a study by the American Medical Association suggests pedometers may be a great solution, both to motivate people to get physically active and to achieve genuine health benefits.
In this article we highlight some of the study findings that could benefit people with diabetes and answers the question - could pedometers improve physical activity levels and health?
Reason for the study
Pedometers are small, reasonably convenient devices that are worn on the body – often on the hip – to count the number of steps that are walked each day. They are easy to obtain and relatively inexpensive.
Use of pedometers has increased in recent times, and some guidelines specifically recommend their use to meet physical activity guidelines. However, prior to this study it was not known for sure whether setting pedometer ‘step goals’ could result in increased physical activity and improved health.
The 2007 study in question was conducted by the American Medical Association to find these answers. It was entitled: “Using pedometers to increase physical activity and improve health”.
Study goals included:
- Looking at the association between pedometer use and physical activity among adults.
- Determining the association between pedometer use and changes in body weight, serum lipid levels, fasting serum glucose and insulin, and blood pressure.
- Reviewing the association between setting a daily step goal and health improvements.
Type of study
The study is described as ‘the first published quantitative synthesis of the literature on the effectiveness of pedometers’. In plain language, the study reviewed data from a large number of previous credible studies, articles and conference findings to come up with their conclusions.
There were 2,767 participants in 28 included studies. The average age of participants was 49 years, and most individuals were overweight and relatively inactive at the start of the studies.
A total of 14 studies were classified as RCTs - Randomized Controlled Trials. In eight of these studies, some participants viewed and recorded their steps each day, unlike the ‘control participants’, who wore sealed pedometers where the daily steps could not be seen.
In six other RCT studies, all participants used pedometers with visible step counts. Twelve additional studies were classed as observational.
The study results suggest pedometer use is associated with significant increases in physical activity. The study authors assess this as walking 2,000 steps or about a mile (1.6km) a day.
Reported health benefits included clinically relevant reductions in weight and blood pressure.
We were particularly interested to see the significant difference in results between participants who followed a step goal, and those who didn’t. Pedometer users who were given a step goal – whether a prescribed 10,000 steps or a personalized step goal – considerably increased their physical activity during the study. These same results were not seen in participants who were not given a goal.
Could a pedometer be a solution for you?
The results from this study suggest a pedometer might be a great solution if you are prepared to set daily step goals. Given the improved health outcomes and relatively low cost of pedometers, it might well be worth a try!
For more tips on getting motivated for physical activity, read articles from Dr. Michael Sarin’s expert blog on this site. You may also find it helpful to read our article 8 cold weather exercise tips for people with diabetes.
QUICK TIP: Get your own personal physical activity tracker in the Diabetes self-management tools section.