Sunday, June 03, 2012

Will walk for feedback

I ask all my patients about their personal exercise routines. They often answer that while they do no exercise, they are "extremely active" all day at work. I encourage them to wear pedometers in order to gauge just how active they are. One dismayed lady tried it out, then wailed in a follow-up email "There are only three steps between my desk and the file cabinet!". Not such a whirlwind at work after all.

Researchers in New Zealand decided to see if sedentary seniors could be persuaded to move more if equipped with encouragement and a pedometer(1). One group of geezers (geezettes too!) were given step-counting gadgets along with exercise counseling and follow-up phone calls to set ever greater step-counting goals. A control group were counseled and called but were not issued any freebie pedometers.

At the end of a year, both groups had significantly increased their leisure walking, proving that mere encouragement and phone calls are useful interventions. The pedometered seniors, however, doubled their extra walk-time compared with the unmetered oldsters. Blood pressures dropped in both groups. No surprise--this step-counting strategy works in middle-aged ladies as well(2).

I've been through multiple pedometers in multiple years. I've lost more than a few--in a cab, a nail salon, into the toilet. I've tossed out several due to inaccuracy; so sensitive to motion, they registered any shift of position. I currently wear a Fitbit designed to remain true to step count even if stuffed in a pocket. It also has a flower that gains more leaves the more active you are.

If the Fitbit is too pricey for you, I encourage you to invest in a mid-range device. The Yamax SW701 Digi-Walker Pedometer has been trial-tested for accuracy.

1) Kolt, GS et al. Healthy Steps Trial: Pedometer-Based Advice and Physical Activity for Low-Active Older Adults. Ann Fam Med May/June 2012 vol. 10 no. 3 206-212.

2) Hultquist CN, Albright C, Thompson DL. Comparison of walking recommendations in previously inactive women. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2005;37(4):676–683.


KGMom said...

Oh so nice to see you back at blogging.
I have worn a step-counter and aimed to get up to the magical 10,000 steos (not sure who set the mark). Sometimes I get there, mostly I don't. Very very achey knees!

JeanMac said...

A group of us decided to wear pedometers We all loved it but difficult to find one true to steps Discovered this when one day It registered over 23000 in error.

femail doc said...

Hi Jean and KGMom, Glad to be back on the blog block; will have more time for same in 2013 when I semi-retire! 10,000 steps takes laundry, grocery store, and a walk for me to achieve. I have a pedometer that seems to register every breath I take, every move I make; takes the fun out of it. That's what I like about those two pedometers I recommended though in a menopause moment, I've lost my darling fitbit somewhere in my bedroom. Which brings up the question, if a woman takes a step and there's no pedometer on to record it, did she really take a step?
My latest fitness obsession is the RunKeeper app on my iPhone; mileage plus speed plus a GPS map of the route all for free!