According to research by Dr. Dena Bravata of Stanford University, wearing a pedometer helps people walk an additional 1.5 kilometers each day . Her research, which was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, also found that pedometer wearers lowered their blood pressure and lost a few pounds in the bargain.
Pedometers range in price from $5 to $60. The analysis discovered that increasing physical activity was dependant on setting a goal and keeping a diary of the number of steps walked each day.
"Every night, you write down how many steps you walked that day.
"By flipping back through your diary, you're able to see patterns: 'on the two days a week I took the stairs, I increased my steps"', Bravata says.
Bravata by her own admission , "really wanted to know if these little gizmos that now are increasingly popular worked".
She and her colleagues examined 20 studies from the United States and Canada and half a dozen from Japan, Europe and Australia. The average age of participants was 49. Around 85 per cent were female as some studies targeted women. The total number of volunteers overall was greater than 2,700.
The research found that pedometer users increased their physical activity by about 27 per cent, walking about 1.5 kilometers more a day than they did before they started their step-counting routines.
In addition, most of the studies established a baseline by asking the walkers not to change their usual activity while wearing a sealed pedometer. This is one where they are not able see the number of steps, for three to seven days.
It was found that on an average, the volunteers lost a few pounds. Their blood pressure even dipped enough to lower their risk for stroke and heart disease, Bravata says.
According to her, keeping a step diary was the trick. Those who did not do that showed no significant increase in walking. Pedometer users who didn't have a step goal also failed to increase their physical activity, she added.
A Japanese fitness movement has set a goal of 10,000 steps, but more modest goals also work to increase activity, Bravata opines.
At the same time, it is still unclear whether the effects are long lasting, say the researchers. . The studies followed patients for around 18 weeks.
According to Marcy Ross, 54, an encyclopedia editor from Great Barrington, Mass, wearing the pedometer is "the best thing I ever did". She has clocked more than three million steps since putting on a pedometer 2 1/2 years ago and has lost "five to 10 extra pounds."
According to Ross, recording her steps on the website of the non-profit group America on the Move , has inspired her to walk instead of driving when doing errands and to get up to talk to a co-worker rather than send an e-mail.
There are praises for the study, from various quarters too. Dr. David Bassett Jr. of the University of Tennessee has hailed the analysis for pulling together what is known about pedometers and fitness. Bassett had done pedometer research, but was not involved in the current analysis.
"This puts us on firmer ground in saying what we know about the use of pedometers in changing behavior," he was reported.