Walking for health

New research, published today in BMC Sports Science, Medicine and Rehabilitation, looks at the benefits of pedometer use for patients participating in cardiac telerehabilitation. Section Editor John Dixon tells us more.


Exercise and physical activity are known to have numerous health benefits. Physical activity can be helpful in preventing or managing conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, cancer, and stroke, and also for improving mental well-being.

The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommends increasing physical activity for health. In physiotherapy and rehabilitation, physical activity is beneficial for many clinical conditions, and the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy recognises the important role of physiotherapists in promoting physical activity, for example in obesity.

However many people are not active enough, and do not meet the recommended levels of physical activity. Walking is a simple and easy form of physical activity that is suitable for many people, and believed to be the best way that many people can meet recommended physical activity levels.

Pedometers and activity monitors can be used to measure how much we walk, simply by counting our steps taken. They can be an important motivational tool encouraging us to be active, and allowing us to set goals and monitor how we do. Many cheap and easy to use pedometers and activity monitors are available to buy, and the use of pedometers in physical activity goal-setting is recognised by NICE.

…pedometer use supported tailored walking activity, and gave patients a sense of independence.

In a new study in BMC Sports Science, Medicine, and Rehabilitation, Charlotte Thorup and colleagues show that pedometer use in cardiac rehabilitation provides benefits from the point of view of both the patients and the clinicians. We know walking is beneficial in cardiovascular disease. This study reveals that pedometer use supported tailored walking activity, and gave patients a sense of independence. Furthermore, the pedometers produced an awareness of the health benefits from walking, and a feeling of being supported. Interventions such as walking, based on behavior change, depend on motivation, and this new work sheds more light on important positive motivational factors in pedometer use.

An interesting point about this study is that it uses qualitative research, examining the views and experiences of those involved to develop more insight into the issue. Historically, it could be said that research in rehabilitation has tended to have more of a quantitative measurement focus, but in recent years the importance of qualitative research in this field has become very clear. Indeed many research studies now use a mixed-methods approach with both quantitative and qualitative methods. It is only by understanding peoples’ views that we can better develop health interventions which will work in real life situations.

This new research, and other studies of this type, are important in revealing more about motivation in carrying out physical activity. Greater knowledge of these factors will help us improve physical activity levels and so move towards better health and well-being overall.

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One Comment

Sally Burch

I have been using a Fitbit for almost four years. The data collected is fascinating and shows how my activity has varied as my health has changed through time.

However step counters are not only useful for encouraging people to increase their activities, but also for helping to moderate activities to a level that is appropriate for current health status. I have M.E. and have found the Fitbit very useful for pacing my daily activities to avoid “Boom and Bust”.

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