New UK research has found that wearing a pedometer to count your daily steps can bring health benefits that last for up to four years after using it.
Carried out by Brunel University London along with a team from St George's, University of London, the research examined the long-term followup of two completed trials to assess whether pedometer use had a long-lasting effect on physical activity.
In the first trial, the team followed 1,023 inactive adults aged between 45 and 75 who took part in a 12-week program which was designed to make them walk more.
Participants were all given a pedometer and were split into three groups.
In one group participants had sessions with a nurse who gave them help and advice on how to become more active, in the second group participants were sent advice by post on how to be more active, and in the third group participants received no advice at all.
The team found that three years later, participants who had received guidance during the program, either from a nurse or by post, were still walking an extra 600 steps a day, plus 24 minutes more moderate-to-vigorous physical activity a week compared to those who received no advice.
In another trial, the team looked at 298 adults aged between 60 and 75. The team again found that participants who received physical activity advice from a nurse were still more active four years later, doing 400 more steps a day and 33 minutes more moderate-to-vigorous exercise a week.
Professor Christina Victor commented on the findings saying the trials provide the first clear evidence that using a pedometer has lasting health benefits, for up to 45 months later.
"We knew from a previous study that wearing a pedometer can help make people more active in the short term," Prof Victor explained. "But to get any of the health benefits linked to being more active, such as a lowered risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes, people need to be more active in the long term.
"Here we have new evidence that shows short, simple advice about regularly using a pedometer, whether that means getting leaflets through the post or speaking to a nurse, can increase physical activity three to four years later."
The findings can be found published online in the journal PLOS Medicine.