Simple Step to Increase Physical Activity

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The benefits of physical activity for preventing Type 2 diabetes and helping manage blood glucose levels in both Type 1 and Type 2 are well known, but working up and sustaining the motivation to exercise is easier said than done. So you may be interested in new research showing that there’s a simple trick for working more movement into your day. What’s the secret? A pedometer.

Older adults are at a particularly high risk of engaging in low levels of physical activity. In an effort to evaluate approaches that could increase the amount of exercise in this population, researchers from the University of Western Sydney in Penrith, Australia, recruited 330 adults age 65 and older through the databases of their health-care providers. At the start of the study, all of the participants were deemed healthy enough to exercise, but most admitted to getting little physical activity.

The participants were randomly split into two groups: One group received pedometers to track the number of steps taken each day, while the other group did not receive pedometers. All participants were then asked to follow New Zealand’s “Green Prescription,” an initiative aimed at getting people to engage in 30 minutes of physical activity a day. Members of both groups received encouragement via regular telephone counseling sessions and from their doctors to increase the amount of walking they did.

Over the course of the yearlong study, people in both groups significantly increased their levels of physical activity, but those who had been given pedometers increased their amount of walking by nearly twice as much — 50 minutes per week for those with pedometers versus 28 minutes a week for those without pedometers. Both groups experienced improvements in blood pressure.

According to lead study author Gregory S. Kolt, PhD, pedometers enable people “to check their progress throughout the day against activity goals they had set for themselves… [and] allow users to see how much physical activity they are accumulating through their general daily routines,” increasing their motivation to stick with their walking regimens.

For more information, read the article “Need to Get Walking More? Clip on a Pedometer” or see the study in the Annals of Family Medicine. And if you’d like some extra motivation for increasing your daily step count, be sure to check out the article “Training for a Walkathon,” by professor of exercise physiology Werner Hoeger.

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