New research funded by National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) suggests that using a pedometer for 12 weeks could show beneficial effects that can be observed up to 4 years later.
The research supported by NIHR Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care comprised 2 trials which evaluated a 12-week walking programme among older adults who had received pedometers and advice from a nurse or by post compared with those who did not receive any intervention. The first was the PACE-UP trial which involved 1023 inactive patients aged 45-75 years recruited from 7 general practices in London. The second was the PACE-Lift trial involving 298 patients aged 60-75 years recruited from 3 general practices in Oxfordshire and Berkshire.
In the PACE-UP trial, a 3-year follow-up showed that individuals from the postal and nurse advice groups were getting nearly 24-28 extra minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity every week compared with the control group. Similarly, a 4-year follow-up of the PACE-Lift trial showed 33 extra minutes per week of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity in individuals receiving nurse advice compared with the usual care group.
Tess Harris, Professor of Primary Care Research at St George’s, University of London, and the lead investigator, has emphasised that whereas pedometers may improve physical activity levels in the short term, achieving long-term health benefits needs sustained increases in physical activity levels.