Diabetes and Fitness: Pedometers Motivate People With Diabetes To Walk More

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In a recent walking study from the University of Michigan Health System and VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System designed to determine the effectiveness of certain types of goal-setting, pedometers have come out on top.  Researchers have found that using a pedometer and tracking your physical activity levels (the study used a website for recording) can be powerful motivators. 

For six weeks, participants were given weekly goals based on their previous week’s activity and wore pedometers to measure their progress. Fifty percent of the study subjects had "lifestyle goals", meaning that they counted the total number of steps during the day.  The other half with "structured goals" only counted steps taken during walks for 10 minutes or more, and aimed for a smaller or ‘target’ number of steps than the lifestyle group.

In other words, a healthy lifestyle group participant would have her steps counted whether she went for a half-hour walk or just walked outside to get the mail, while the structured group would only have the half-hour walk counted. But in both groups, the increase in the daily totals came from activities like half-hour walks, not by taking more short trips to the mailbox, to and from the car, or visiting a co-worker down the hall. (Medical News Today)

Healthy Lifestyle Goals

Both groups demonstrated significant increases in their walking, and were comparable in the overall amount of rise of fitness activity. What’s interesting is the participant’s satisfaction with each of the assigned types of goals. The healthy lifestyle group reported feeling more satisfied than the structured group, and ended up wearing the pedometer more days and for more hours each day during the study.

The finding sheds light on a debate among exercise experts about the ways in which people should increase their levels of activity. Some have contended that the only effective walking programs are those in which long periods of activity (known as "bout steps" in this study) are counted. Others have said that counting every step is a better motivator and is just as effective as bout-step programs.

"Walkers in the group where every step counted experienced the same benefit as those who just had their bout steps recorded," says lead author Caroline R. Richardson, M.D., assistant professor in the Department of Family Medicine at the U-M Medical School and research scientist at the Veterans Affairs Health Services Research and Development at the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System. "The fact that they were also more satisfied with their program suggests that this approach may be more successful for many people than a program that only recognizes long periods of activity." (Medical News Today)

The study, which appears in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, included 35 people with type 2 diabetes who were both overweight and sedentary. Among the 30 participants who completed the study, steps taken during longer walks lasting 10 minutes or more increased by about 1,900 to 2,700 steps a day, and the increases were roughly the same in both the lifestyle and structured groups. Even though the lifestyle-goals group had every step counted, they, like their counterparts in the other group, chose to increase their walking by taking longer walks rather than by accumulating more steps during many short walks.

The Power of Pedometers

Sticking with an enjoyable program is much more likely to succeed with diabetes prevention or improving diabetes.  Pedometers were helpful in both groups in raising fitness levels, but aiming for a healthy lifestyle goal may be much more effective in the long term because people find it more satisfying and easier to incorporate in their every day lives.

For more information about weight management with pedometers, read National Weight Registry’s 10,000 Steps: Moving For Life. You can find an excellent pedometer at the Fitwoman.com’s Healthy Lifestyle Shop. It makes a great gift for a loved one or yourself!

Posted by Laura Brooks

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