The Cooper Institute

Founded in 1970 by the "Father of Aerobics"
Kenneth H. Cooper MD, MPH


Step It Up

Posted in
Move more

Monday, Apr 28, 2008

This is one of those “duh” stories.  

In a recent article in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers reviewed the results of 26 studies in which pedometers or step counters were used. They found that using step counters was strongly associated with increases in physical activity. That is, people who used step counters increased their activity by over 2,000 steps compared to their own baseline level or compared to people who did not wear a step counter. In addition, using step counters was associated with reductions in body mass index (BMI), an indicator of body fatness, and blood pressure.

It's a “duh” story because if you move more, you burn more calories. You burn more calories, you reduce your weight. What is interesting is that this study showed that a relatively simple, inexpensive tool can help people move more — and weigh less.

We at The Cooper Institute have known about the value of step counters for a long time. Over 15 years ago, we conducted one of the first studies in which step counters were used to help people set goals and track their physical activity. We have since used step counters in many other studies and educational programs. Still, it is good to have a definitive paper in a prestigious journal that goes to thousands of physicians and other health professionals. We hope that more clinicians will recommend step counters to their patients.

If you don’t have a step counter, get one. If you do have one, here are ways to have fun with it.

Fun with Step Counters

Step Around Your Block

  1. Guess how many steps it is from your home to the end of your block.
  2. Check your step counter before and after you walk the distance. How close was your guess?
  3. Try it again. How many steps does it take to go around your whole block?
 Take a Cue for Physical Activity
  1. Decide how many steps you want to have on your step counter by lunch time.
  2. Check your counter at noon. If you haven’t reached your goal, take time during your lunch break to add some steps.
  3. Set another goal for five o’clock. If you haven’t reached your five o’clock goal, the step counter will cue you to get moving!
One Step Counter, Two Friends
  1. Ask a friend to join you. Walk for five minutes. Guess the number of steps you walked.  Have your buddy guess, also. Check the step counter. Whoever comes closest to the actual number without going over gets to wear the step counter for the next 10 minutes.
  2. Guess the number of steps on the counter after 10 minutes. Continue on the rest of your walk. Make up different time intervals (three minutes, 11 minutes, etc.) for counting steps.  Each time, the person who comes closest wins the right to wear the step counter.
  3. At the end of your walk, who wore the step counter the most times?
Have you ever used a step counter?  If so, how did it help you?