Pedometers get kids active
Pedometers had already been shown to
make adults more active, but this is the
first evidence that they work on children
Image: iStockphoto

A review of studies has found that pedometers are a successful way of encouraging young people to get active.

Researchers at the University of Newcastle analysed 14 international studies where pedometers were used to track physical activity in children aged eight to 11 years and teenagers aged 14 to 17 years.

Dr David Lubans from the University's School of Education said prior to the study little was known about pedometers' effects on physical activity among young people.

"Recent studies looking at the impact of pedometers on adults found physical activity increased by around 2,000 steps per day and decreased body mass index and blood pressure levels," Dr Lubans said.

"While pedometers appeared to have an important part to play in the promotion of activity among adults, much less was known regarding the impact on behaviour in youth.

"Our research found that in 12 of the 14 studies, pedometers were successful in increasing physical activity among youth. Studies recorded increases of 500-2,500 steps per day and were most successful in increasing physical activity among pre-teens and teenagers with initially low levels of activity."

The basic premise underlying the use of pedometers to increase physical activity is that the immediate visual feedback of the number of steps taken increases awareness of how personal behaviour choices affect physical activity.

Pedometers are able to provide up-to-the-minute information which can be used to adjust activity plans to achieve physical activity objectives.

Dr Lubans said young people in particular needed to be made more conscious of the benefits of physical activity on their long-term health.

"Although youth participation in organised sports and activities has remained relatively stable over time, incidental activity has been eroded from the lives of many young people. They also consume too much soft drink and junk food, and don't eat enough fruit and vegetables.

"The prevalence of obesity among Australian youth has accelerated since the early 1970s and latest data suggest around one quarter of young Australians are overweight or obese.

"Our research sends a strong message that promoting the use of pedometers is an effective way to increase the amount of physical activity young people undertake."

Dr Lubans research has been published in the latest edition of Preventive Medicine.

Editor's Note: Original news release can be found here.