This article originally appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle on January 29, 2014.
For those of you who want to increase the amount of exercise you get, but are not sure where you’ll find the time, Stanford researchers have a piece of advice: An easy way to start is simply counting your steps each day. You’ll probably drop some weight and decrease your blood pressure in the process.
The recommendation comes from 2007 research in which Stanford scientists reviewed 26 studies involving overweight individuals using pedometers, inexpensive devices that clip to clothing and count the user’s steps. The researchers found that, on average, wearing a pedometer caused people to walk an extra 2,100 steps – or about a mile – each day.
Overall, the participants averaged a 27 percent increase in their daily physical activity and small but significant decreases in body mass index and blood pressure. The researchers say pedometers motivate people, giving them a way to track whether they’ve achieved daily step goals.
So how many steps should a healthy person take in a day? The old rule of thumb is 10,000 – a number that originates from a 1960s Japanese study in which the average man burned 300 calories with that much walking. According to a 2008 study published by the American College of Sports Medicine, most modern Americans aren’t likely to achieve 10,000 steps without adding some concerted exercise into their daily routines.
Today, there are dozens of apps – free and paid – that turn your smartphone into a pedometer. There are also digital wristbands from companies like Fitbit, Nike and Jawbone that will track everything from your daily steps, to your sleep cycle, meals and heart rate.