According to a University of Michigan Health System analysis of nine studies, people participating for a longer time in a pedometer-based walking program may lose a good amount of weight, without even having to change their diet.
This analytical study led by Caroline R. Richardson, M.D., assistant professor in the U-M Health System Department of Family Medicine, involved 307 participants in total of nine studies. Of these 73 pct were women and 27 pct were men. The lengths of the studies ranged from four weeks to one year, with a median of 16 weeks.
In the studies, the participants increased the distance they walked by one mile to slightly more than two miles each day. This implies that at an average pace of three miles per hour, the walkers were getting an additional 20 to 40 minutes of activity a day. On average, they lost 0.05 kilograms per week (about 0.11 pounds) for an average total of 1.27 kilograms (2.8 pounds) during the course of the studies.
It was found that all except one of the studies led to a small decrease in weight.
"The amount of weight loss attributable to pedometer-based walking programs is small but significant," said Richardson.
She indicated that the analysis also showed that participants had a tendency to lose more weight in the longer studies.
According to Richardson, though pedometer-based walking programs are thought of as convenient and flexible for participants, there has been some question in the fitness and medical communities about the health benefits of such programs.
However, she was sure that this analysis should suppress some of these questions.
"The increase in physical activity can be expected to result in health benefits that are independent of weight loss. Increasing physical activity reduces the risk of cardiovascular problems, lowers blood pressure and helps dieters maintain lean muscle tissue when they are dieting," said Richardson.
According to her, the other benefit can be that exercise in general has been shown to improve glucose tolerance in people with impaired glucose tolerance or type 2 diabetes.
The analysis suggested that participants in pedometer-based walking programs can expect to lose about five pounds in almost a year.
This would imply a 2 percent to 3 percent reduction in body weight for an overweight person. However, Richardson indicated that the program can still be beneficial. She said that a quicker way to see results, and possibly to encourage people to adhere to the program longer, would be to add a dietary program to the walking plan.
The study also found that the average daily step-count increases varied from just under 2,000 steps per day to more than 4,000 steps per day across these studies. For the average person, a 2,000-step walk is approximately equal to a one-mile walk.
It was revealed that the range of weight change for the nine studies was a gain of 0.3 kilograms (0.66 pounds) to a loss of 3.70 kilograms (eight pounds), with an average weight loss of 1.27 kilograms (2.8 pounds).
This study appeared in the new issue of Annals of Family Medicine.