Pedometers Help People Go the Extra Mile, Study Says

If you want to ramp up your workout and go that extra mile, use a pedometer.

According to a study by researchers at the Stamford University School of Medicine, the little gadgets helped normally inactive people become more physically fit, lose weight and reduce blood pressure.

"Much to my surprise, these little devices were shown to increase physical activity by just over 2,000 steps, or about 1 mile of walking per day," said the lead study author, Dr. Dena Bravata, a senior research scientist at Stamford University. "This goes a long way toward helping people meet the national guidelines for daily physical activity."

To evaluate the effects of pedometers on physical activity and health outcomes, Bravata and her colleagues reviewed more than 2,000 articles and 26 studies that looked at the use of pedometers as a tool to motivate physical activity. Nearly 3,000 people participated in the studies. Most of them were female, overweight and relatively inactive before they started their walking program.

Bravata and her team found that pedometer users in the randomized trials increased their physical activity by nearly 2,500 steps per day more than participants who did not use the devices. Among the observational studies, pedometer users increased their physical activity by more than 2,000 steps per day over baseline.

"Just over 2,100 steps might not sound [like] that much, but it equates to a 27 percent increase in physical activity — which is really astounding," Bravata said.

In recent years, pedometers have emerged as a popular, easy-to-use tool (clipped to a pocket or waistline) to count steps walked per day. The devices are affordable, with many brands selling for as little as $10 to $15.

The study appears in Wednesday's issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.