Science Sunday: The Painless Way to Fight the Holiday Pounds

A simple device that motivates people to more physical activity.You’ve eaten all that turkey and now you’re wondering how to work it off. The answer is … get a pedometer.

A team from the Stanford University School of Medicine found that the simple act of owning a pedometer – a small device you can clip to your waist to count the number of steps you take – encourages people to be more active.

“Much to my surprise, these little devices were shown to increase physical activity by just over 2,000 steps, or about 1 mile of walking per day,” said the study’s lead author, Dena Bravata, MD, MS, a senior research scientist in medicine. “This goes a long way toward helping people meet the national guidelines for daily physical activity.”

The study appeared in this week’s edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

To evaluate the effect of pedometers, Bravata and her colleagues looked at more than 2,000 articles and found 26 studies that used pedometers as a tool to try to motivate people to undertake more physical activity. Most of the subjects were female, and most were overweight.

They found that the average pedometer user increased her physical activity by an average of 2,100 steps a day.

“Just over 2,100 steps might not sound that much, but it equates to a 27 percent increase in physical activity – which is really astounding,” said Bravata.

James Hill, PhD, an obesity expert at University of Colorado, said, “It fits with everything we’ve seen; we can get pretty amazing increased physical activity by using pedometers.” Hill co-founded America on the Move, a national initiative that encourages people to add 2,000 steps a day to what they already are doing.