Pedometers, Part 3: Why should I buy one?

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Why buy a pedometer?  Many folks out there will tell you that you are wasting your money if you buy a fitness tracker or pedometer.  There are many benefits to buying one, but are they worth the investment?  How do pedometers help me with fitness and weight loss?

Why buy a pedometer?

Pedometers are a tool in fitness, health, and weight loss.  They will not force you to get off the couch and exercise.  They are not magical.  If you need something to motivate you to get off the couch, get you significant other or pause a cattle prod.  That is not what a pedometer or fitness watch does.  

A fitness wearable such as a pedometer or watch will allow you to track your steps and use them as means to track your steps and motivate yourself to improve.  It is sheerly a motivation tool that will encourage you to do more.   Doctors may be more effective than the pedometer by giving walking prescriptions but I personally include a pedometer as a part of my prescriptions to patients.  

Walking Prescription

Figure 1:  Walking Prescription:  Example prescription for walking by wvweybodywalk.org.  

One research study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, looked at the use of pedometers[1].  They found significant increases in physical activity with the use of pedometers.  They also identified significant decreases in body mass index and blood pressure. The key weakness in this study is the study does not look at long term gains.  A longer study is warranted but this study does show an improvement in motivation and that this increase in exercise does improve health in the form of BP and weight.  

Another Study showed that pedometers were a useful tool to increase exercise in an obese female patient[2].  It showed that the pedometer gave the patients goals and motivated them to walk more steps.  The patients with a pedometer averaged more steps per day than the patient either a pedometer.  

Keys to success:

  1. Set a step goal
  2. Walk briskly at 3 mph or faster
  3. Buy a pedometer
  4. Find a friend to compete with (peer pressure)
Footnotes
[1]Bravata et al., “Using Pedometers to Increase Physical Activity and Improve Health.”
[2]Pal et al., “Using Pedometers to Increase Physical Activity in Overweight and Obese Women: A Pilot Study.”
Bravata, Dena M., Crystal Smith-Spangler, Vandana Sundaram, Allison L. Gienger, Nancy Lin, Robyn Lewis, Christopher Stave, Ingram Olkin, and John R. Sirard. “Using Pedometers to Increase Physical Activity and Improve Health.” Journal of the American Medical Association 198, no. 19 (November 21, 2007): 2296–2304. doi: 10.1001 [Source]
Pal, S, C Cheng, G Egger, C Binns, and R Donovan. “Using Pedometers to Increase Physical Activity in Overweight and Obese Women: A Pilot Study.” BMC Public Health 9 (August 25, 2009): 309. [PubMed]
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About the Author

ChuckH

I am a family physician who has served in the US Army. In 2016, I found myself overweight, out of shape, and unhealthy, so I made a change to improve my health. This blog is the chronology of my path to better health and what I have learned along the way.

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