The Cooper Institute

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


Pedometer Use: Adding to What We Know Already Works

Posted in
Live well

Monday, Apr 19, 2010

Gilbert R. Kaats, Ph.D. is passionate about health enhancing products and has researched them over the past 32 years.  This blog is a summary of his research and findings regarding the usefulness of pedometers.1  The concept is simple as related by Kessinger in the December 2007 issue of The Original Internist “…Find what works, make sure it works, and then add to it; re-tool one good idea with another. Never take away from what works. Always add to it.” 2 Pedometers work; they serve to increase physical activity and “…the device is a great little motivator.” Says Dr. Dena Bravata. 3

We all know that the most common reason people give for not exercising is lack of time. The bottom line is few sedentary adults will actually adopt exercise as a regular regime for a lifetime. This lead researchers to a strategy of reframing “exercise” as “physical activity” in order to increase the chances of a sustained behavior change in adults.  When we simply ask people to move more and incorporate it into their day instead of finding specific time to exercise they do it. You most likely have heard of or have participated in a pedometer program that encourages accumulating 10,000 steps a day. While increased movement or “physical activity” is not as beneficial as aerobic training or resistance training it should not be underestimated in its benefits for producing real health benefits. Cindi Caciolo, former editor of Prevention Magazine, took the challenge to wear a pedometer and track steps or “clicks” and was shocked as she got a major reality check. On days she thought she was busy and active she had only accumulated 4,500 clicks.  She began to realize that the constant feedback from the pedometer set the stage for behavior modification. “What gets measured gets managed” Caciolo stated. 

An important feature of wearing the “clicker” or pedometer is how users learn to increases their clicks without expending much additional time.  For example when the phone rings most of us answer and stay seated (sedentary behavior) while we complete the conversation.  But pedometer users have figured out that they can pace in their office or home while talking on the phone.  One user commented that “Every time my mother calls, it’s good for 2,000 clicks”. In a study that examined pedometer use and its potential increase in patient lifestyle ambulatory activity, Stovits et. Al. [2005] reported that mean daily step counts in the group wearing pedometers rose 41% over a 9-week study period.

So in keeping with the “Never take away from what works. Always add to it” wisdom, we need to promote the use of a pedometer that is accurate.  Independent researchers and universities have found the Yamax’s units to be the most accurate and are now considered “the Gold Standard”. The recommendation is made on reliability, validity, and durability.  It is marketed by HealthTech Products (210.274.6193). A quality pedometer should be recommended by exercise leaders and medical practitioners because an unreliable pedometer will likely undermine the patient’s or client’s confidence in the measurements and will provide rationalization to discontinue tracking steps/clicks.  The concept that is working with pedometer use is found in the following 3 steps: 1) Wear the pedometer throughout the day.  The goal is to get more clicks, not to exercise more or start a workout program. 2) Track it. At the end of the day record the number of clicks.  You may log on to the “Clicker Trainer Program” from HealthTech.  It automatically translates other activities into clicks so all activity is figured in your day and week.  3) Graph it.  A visual picture of your progress is very motivating, and supports your new behaviors.

1Kessinger JA IV. The legacy continues. Original Internist. 2007;14(4):187. 2Kaats GR.Restructuring Body Composition: How the Kind, Not the Amount, of Weight Loss Defines a Pathway to Optimal Health. Taylor Publishing, Dallas, Texas,2008. 3Bravata DM, Smith-Spangler C, Sundaram V. et al. Using Pedometers to Increase Physical Activity and Improve Health: A Systematic Review JAMA. 2007;298(19):2296-2304