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28 February 2012 | PR 12/39

Pedometers provide just a short-term spike to physical activity

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Pedometers do not provide long-term changes to wearers’ physical activity behaviours according to a Loughborough University study.

Dr Stacy Clemes and Nuala Deans of the University’s School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences (SSEHS) have found the short term increases reported in previous studies are not sustained past the first week of pedometer wearing.

The duo measured daily step counts of 90 adults wearing pedometers over a three-week period.

For the first week, participants thought the device was a body posture monitor. Once it was revealed as a pedometer the researchers saw an immediate increase in individuals’ daily step counts, with wearers averaging an additional 1500 steps per day (an increase of almost 20%). By the following week step rates had returned to normal.  

Pedometers are commonly utilised within academic research to objectively assess walking-based habits and activities, and are widely used both as a surveillance tool to monitor physical activity and as a motivational device in physical activity interventions.

Lead researcher Dr Clemes explains:  
 
“Our findings raise concerns about studies that use pedometers to provide an account of an individual’s physical activity over a one-week period.

“It is evident that wearers have an immediate reaction to wearing pedometers and recording their step count during the first week. As a result we would recommend when unsealed pedometers – those where participants can view their daily step count – and step count diaries are used to assess habitual activity, researchers use a two-week monitoring period, with the first week classified as a familiarisation week.

“Step counts recorded during the second week will provide a more accurate reflection of typical activity.

“However, if pedometers are to be used as an intervention tool, further strategies need to be used to sustain the motivational impact of pedometer use after the first week.”

The research paper ‘Presence and Duration of Reactivity to Pedometers in Adults’, is to be published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise this summer and is currently available on the journal’s website. 

−ENDS−

For all media enquiries contact:

Amanda Overend
PR Officer
Loughborough University
T: 01509 223491
E: A.J.Overend@lboro.ac.uk 

Notes for editors:

Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines.

It was awarded the coveted Sunday Times University of the Year 2008-09 title, and is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in national newspaper league tables. In the 2011 National Student Survey, Loughborough was voted one of the top universities in the UK, and has topped the Times Higher Education league for the UK’s Best Student Experience every year since the poll's inception in 2006. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, the University has been awarded six Queen's Anniversary Prizes.

Loughborough is also the UK’s premier university for sport. It has perhaps the best integrated sports development environment in the world and is home to some of the country’s leading coaches, sports scientists and support staff. It also has the country’s largest concentration of world-class training facilities across a wide range of sports.

It is a member of the 1994 Group of 19 leading research-intensive universities. The Group was established in 1994 to promote excellence in university research and teaching. Each member undertakes diverse and high-quality research, while ensuring excellent levels of teaching and student experience.

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This page was last updated on Tuesday February 28, 2012 12:06