Harvard Heart Letter

Heart Beat: Pedometer-powered walking

Heart Beat

Pedometer-powered walking

Interested in walking an extra mile a day? Get a pedometer and clip it to your belt. The silent tally of your daily steps may be all you need to take more of them.

Exercise gurus have been promoting the use of pedometers for years. These small, pager-sized devices clock every step a person takes. To see if they really help people get more physical activity, Stanford University researchers looked at the results of the 26 best pedometer studies conducted so far. The simple act of wearing one added more than 2,000 steps a day. At an average step length of 2.5 feet, that's an extra mile.

You can buy a pedometer for under $5. Wear it for a week or so to get a handle on how active you are. Once you've figured out your average daily steps, the device can help motivate you to take more. If you aren't very active, try adding an extra 200 steps a day each week. Some exercise experts suggest a daily goal of 10,000 steps, but that's an arbitrary number that is too high for some people and too low for others. However many you take, try to include an uninterrupted stretch of brisk walking each day.

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