A new study is the first to show that providing a prescription for a number of daily steps along with a pedometer to track progress improves patient health. Guidelines recommend that people walk at least 10,000 steps daily for health benefits, but many Canadians find this target difficult to meet. “As physicians, we have to face reality and admit that for many patients, just telling them to be more physically active simply doesn’t work,” said Kaberi Dasgupta, MD, in a press release from the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre.
Dr. Dasgupta and her colleagues enrolled 347 patients with type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, or both into a randomized trial testing prescribed step counts. Half of the participants only received standard advice to move more while the other half received written step-count prescriptions and a pedometer.
After a year, participants who received the written prescriptions walked an average of 1,200 more steps per day than participants in the control group. Among patients with type 2 diabetes, those in the step-count prescription group also had reduced blood sugar levels and improvements in insulin resistance. The results were encouraging, though fell below the researchers’ goal of increasing steps by 3,000 per day. The McGill team is currently planning studies of additional interventions to further increase daily activity.