Counting daily steps can make you more active

In the journals

People who track their daily steps generally become more active and are less likely to develop certain health problems, suggests a study published online June 25, 2019, by PLOS Medicine. Researchers examined information on about 1,300 adults (41% men), ages 45 to 75, from two trials. Most were nonsmokers in good health and without cardiovascular disease. The people took an average of 7,500 steps a day and did about 90 minutes a week of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity.

For the trials, half the participants tracked their steps with a pedometer for 12 weeks while the others did not. The pedometer group also received handbooks on walking programs and regular interactions with nurses who offered support and helped them set fitness goals. Some continued to track their daily steps after the trials ended, while others said the experience helped them better gauge how many steps they take each day.

At the follow-ups (three years for one trial and four years for the other), participants who'd originally used pedometers were taking about 3,000 extra daily steps and doing about 30 more minutes of weekly activity compared with those who hadn't tracked their steps. These people also were 44% less likely to have experienced a fracture and 66% less likely to have had a heart attack or stroke. According to the researchers, the main message is that using a simple pedometer or wrist activity tracker can help people kick-start a walking program, increase their exercise intensity, and likely motivate them to adopt healthy lifestyle changes — all of which can lead to long-term health improvements.

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