Tuesday, 09 January 2017

Researchers have shown that people can improve their physical activity by just using a pedometer, a handbook and an exercise diary and don’t need to rely on one-to-one support.

The PACE-UP clinical trial, led by Dr Tess Harris of St George’s, University of London and funded by the National Institute for Health Research, gave two groups of general practice patients pedometers, 12-week walking programmes, and physical activity diaries. One group, additionally, had three physical activity consultations with a practice nurse; the other received the pedometers and documents through the post.

The patients were predominantly inactive 45-75 year olds and the main effects of the trial were measured 12 months after the start of the study.

When compared with a third group which took no extra measures, those using pedometers increased their step-counts by about one-tenth, and the time they spent in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity levels by about one-third at 12 months. Both nurse and postal groups achieved similar physical activity outcomes.

The trial provides important pointers to efficient and economical (low cost) ways to help address the challenge of physical inactivity in the adult population. The trial has been published today in peer-reviewed open access journal, PLOS Medicine.

Dr Tess Harris, Reader in Primary Care at St George’s, University of London, said: “We know that pedometers can improve physical activity levels in the population. What is unique about this trial is the demonstration that simple pedometer interventions delivered by post can bring about a sustained increase in objectively measured physical activity after a year.

“The difference between the nurse and postal groups was minimal at 12 months. This suggests that pedometer interventions delivered by post, or with minimal support, could help reduce physical inactivity.”