Step up to better health

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fitbit

There are no shortages of pedometers, activity monitors, and exercise tracking devices on the market. They claim that monitoring your steps taken, daily activity, and exercise levels can help to increase fitness and improve your health.

Even kids love them. My twin 10-year-old boys can often be found walking up and down the driveway, or around the kitchen to up their step counts – competing with each other is their greatest (maybe only?) effective motivator.

Add in activities like geo-caching, and more recently real-world gaming like Pokémon GO and we are beginning to see the impact technology can have on activity levels.

Commonly users of activity trackers aim for a daily goal of 10,000 steps. It isn’t clear where this recommendation originated, but nonetheless it has remained a benchmark for daily activity.

An Australian study published in 2015 investigated the overall health benefit of walking, specifically whether increased daily step counts lead to fewer health problems. The study demonstrated that daily step count was linearly correlated with lower all cause mortality – put very bluntly, the more an individual walked the less likely they were to die.

Not only did those with higher step counts show decreased mortality, but those that continued to increase their step counts over the study period had a further reduction in mortality risk.

So what about the use of step counters as motivators, as tools to increase activity levels? Another recent study demonstrated that the use of computer-tailored pedometer-based programs (think Fitbit or Nike+ type programs) did facilitate an increase in physical activity in study participants over the three-month period.

It does appear that the use of technology can motivate individuals to increase activity, and it is clear there is significant benefit to even moderate increase in daily activity. Whenever evaluating activity levels or designing strategies for patients to increase daily exercise, it’s vital to determine individualized motivation strategies.

Whether it is an enjoyment of walking in nature, training to compete in a 5K, or some inner drive to catch Pokémon, finding what helps you increase daily activity is an important step in better health.

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