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Short-term pedometer interventions produce significant health benefits several years later

Research which followed up two 12-week pedometer-based walking trials in adults showed long-term health benefits for the participants four years later.

Man with smart watch and mobile phone looking at pedometer results

Participants in the intervention groups in the PACE-UP and PACE-LIFT studies showed significantly fewer cardiovascular events, including heart attacks and strokes, as well as suffering fewer fractures, compared with those in the control groups in the studies.

The original PACE-UP and PACE-LIFT clinical trials were led by Professor Tess Harris of St George’s, University of London and funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR). In both studies, groups of primary care patients were given pedometers, 12-week walking programmes based on effective behaviour change techniques, and physical activity diaries. The patients in PACE-UP were predominantly inactive 45-75 year olds, while in PACE-LIFT the patients were 60-75 years old. In both groups, the intervention patients were found to have increased their activity levels 12 months later and also 3-4 years later, compared to patients in a control group.

In this study, the researchers sought to link trial data with participants’ primary care records to evaluate the intervention effects from both trials on longer-term health outcomes. They looked at the electronic primary care data records for 1001 PACE-UP and 296 PACE-LIFT participants. They found that there were significantly fewer new cardiovascular events and fractures in intervention participants at 4 years. Approximately 60 people needed to receive the walking intervention to prevent one cardiovascular event and approximately 28 to prevent one fracture.

Professor Tess Harris said: “With each stage of these trials we have seen that simple short-term pedometer-based walking interventions can produce an increase in step-counts and in the time that people spend doing moderate intensity physical activity; and now we can see corresponding long-term health effects. This type of intervention can have a long-lasting effect and should be used more widely to help address the public health physical inactivity challenge.”

This study was carried out by researchers at St George’s, University of London; Queen Mary University of London; Brunel University and King’s College London, as well as University College London and the Norwegian School of Sports Sciences.

Effect of pedometer-based walking interventions on long-term health outcomes: prospective 4-year follow-up of two randomised controlled trials using routine primary care data is published in peer-reviewed open access journal PLOS Medicine.

Published: 26 June 2019

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