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Using pedometers as motivational tools: are goals set in steps more effective than goals set in minutes for increasing walking?

Baker, G. and Mutrie, N. and Lowry, R. (2008) Using pedometers as motivational tools: are goals set in steps more effective than goals set in minutes for increasing walking? International Journal of Health Promotion and Education, 46. ISSN 1463-5240

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Abstract

Background Pedometers are popular devices that measure walking steps. There has been a recent surge in promoting the pedometer as a motivational tool to increase walking. However, little empirical evidence exists to support this suggestion. This study examined the effectiveness of a pedometer as a motivational tool to increase walking. 50 participants (7 men and 43 women, mean age (SD) 40.16 (8.81) years, range 25-61 years) were randomly assigned to either an intervention group who followed a four-week walking programme with goals set in steps (using an open pedometer for feedback) or a comparison group who followed an equivalent four-week walking programme with goals set in minutes. Participants had step-counts recorded at baseline, weeks 1, 2, 3, 4, and at weeks 16 and 52 for follow-up. Both groups significantly increased step-counts from baseline to week 4 with no significant difference between groups. However, a significantly greater number of participants in the intervention group (77%) compared with the comparison group (54%) achieved their week 4 goals (p=0.03). There was no significant change in step-counts from week 4 to week 16. There was a significant decrease from week 16 to week 52. In the short term, both goals set in minutes and goals set in steps using a pedometer may be effective at promoting walking. In the long term, additional support may be required to sustain increases in walking.