UT Physiologist Shows Pedometers Motivate Walkers

KNOXVILLE — Need motivation to walk 10,000 steps? Get a pedometer, says University of Tennessee professor Dixie Lee Thompson.

Thompson, an exercise physiologist, says her research shows that using pedometers motivates people to become more active.

“Pedometers are very popular,” Thompson said, “but there had been very few scientific studies on how useful they actually are in motivating sedentary individuals to become more active.”

Thompson’s four-week study involved 58 women with sedentary lifestyles, from ages 33 to 55. Half of them were instructed to take a brisk 30-minute walk every day or most days of the week. Other participants were told to walk 10,000 steps a day.

All of the women wore sealed pedometers that stored the data; the 10,000-step group wore second pedometers so they could monitor their daily step totals.

“What we found is that the 10,000-steps-a-day group tended to walk more and to do it more regularly,” Thompson said.

During the four weeks, the 30-minute group averaged 8,270 steps a day, while the 10,000-step group averaged 10,159 steps a day.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services encourages at least 30 minutes of moderate activity most days of the week. The 10,000 steps per day recommendation originated in the 1960s in Japan, Thompson said.

“We wanted to test the 10,000 steps goal against the standard 30 minutes per day recommendation,” Thompson said. “The results show that the pedometer in conjunction with the 10,000-step recommendation gets inactive people active.”

Thompson’s study has been published in USA Today, Women’s Health Weekly, Life Science Weekly, Science Letter, Biotech Week, and Obesity, Fitness and Wellness Week, among others.

Thompson, a fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine, researches endocrine aspects of exercise, the response of females to exercise, and body composition analysis.