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Monitoring Steps to Lose Weight Works!

Jul 22, 2010

Women achieved modest changes in their BMI and waist-to-hip measurements with no other lifestyle interventions….

One byproduct of the attention that has recently been focused on weight loss and reduction of obesity is the growing interest in how clinicians can help patients lose weight. Most guidelines do not address gender differences in weight loss strategies although it is clear that both the expression and the problems of obesity are different in men and women. Therefore, it may be that different strategies should be used to encourage weight loss in different genders. 

Walking is a cost-effective method of exercise for many individuals and may be an important component of a weight loss program. Monitoring of the number of “steps” taken during a day is a way of tracking exercise progress. However, pedometer accuracy might be affected by the placement of the device on the body — a bulging abdomen or different waistband heights from one day to the next can cause differences in pedometer readings.

The purpose of this pilot study was to determine if different pedometer placement sites, while women are walking or exercising, provide the same monitoring results.

Three pedometers were given to each of 12 women to wear on a bra strap, waist, or shoe for a week. The site of pedometer placement was changed each week and rotated through all 3 sites. The participants recorded their daily step counts in a log, which they submitted weekly to the researchers. The study lasted 3 weeks. The participants did not change their daily eating or activity routines during the study. Body mass index (BMI), placement preference, and waist and hip measurements were collected at the beginning and end of the study.

The data collected on pedometer placements suggested that women’s adiposity distribution patterns and clothing were potential barriers to pedometer use at the waist. More than 10% variance in the number of the steps was recorded with pedometers attached to bra straps or shoes compared with values recorded on the waist. These 3 sites were not equitable distance monitoring sites.

Daily walking is an affordable option for physical activity, one that nurse practitioners often suggest as a weight-loss strategy. During the course of the pilot study, 75% of participants had improvement in BMI and waist-to-hip measurements with no other lifestyle intervention. The number of steps taken daily remained about the same. Wearing the pedometer allowed participants to record exercise and non-exercise walking — that is, walking that they also did during the course of their other daily routines.

The results suggest that women might want to consistently wear pedometers in a daily walking program. Daily walking can lead to beneficial changes in BMI. Use of the pedometer to measure distance may be a way of motivating women to keep walking.

This is a relatively simple pilot study that would be interesting to see conducted on a larger scale. The fact that women achieved modest changes in their BMI and waist-to-hip measurements with no other lifestyle interventions is provocative.

If the step count of study participants was relatively stable throughout the 3-week study, what caused the body measurement changes? Although no effort was made to increase the number of steps taken each day, it is possible that because the women knew they were participating in a study, their exercise every day was greater than it had been prior to the study period. Or perhaps having to record their pedometer recordings, the women “competed with themselves” to make sure that they walked the same number of steps each day and therefore achieved an overall increase in activity.

J Am Acad Nurse Pract. 2010 May;22(5):264-9.