A comparison of goals set in steps using a pedometer and goals set in minutes : a randomized controlled trial

Baker, Graham and Mutrie, Nanette and Lowry, Ruth (2011) A comparison of goals set in steps using a pedometer and goals set in minutes : a randomized controlled trial. International Journal of Health Promotion and Education, 49 (2). ISSN 1463-5240

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Pedometers are being widely used in intervention studies designed to increase physical activity. However, due to a lack of adequately powered randomised controlled trials, the evidence surrounding their effectiveness as motivational tools is equivocal. This study examined their use during a short-term 4-week walking intervention. The intervention was designed to increase participants’ physical activity, in accordance with active living recommendations of accumulating 30 minutes of moderately intense physical activity on at least five days of the week. The effect of providing supportive email prompts, based on components of the Transtheoretical Model of Exercise Behaviour Change, on maintaining walking at a 12 month follow-up was also investigated. Sixty-one participants (44 women, 17 men, mean age 42.1 ± 10.6 years) followed an individualized 4-week goal-setting programme based on: steps using a pedometer (PI, n = 21); overall goal to accumulate 3,000 additional steps above baseline levels, minutes (MI, n = 21); overall goal to accumulate 30 additional minutes above baseline levels or acted as a control (C, n = 19); maintain baseline levels for four weeks. Participants either received email support (ES, n = 28); based on the processes of consciousness raising and self re-evaluation or no support (NS, n = 33) between 8 and 12 months. Step-count data were analyzed using a two-way mixed factorial Analysis of Variance. One-way repeated measures Analysis of Variance, with follow-up repeated contrasts, were used to explore the significant time*group interaction effect. PI increased walking from baseline to week four (3,006 steps/day, p < .001) but decreased between week four and 12 months (1,799 steps/day, p = .044). Neither MI nor C altered steps over time. There was no difference in steps between ES and NS at 12 months. Pedometers may act as effective short-term motivational tools. Research is required to investigate how pedometers combined with other prompts can help maintain initial increases in walking.