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There are currently various products on the market that allow people to track, among other things, how many steps they take every day. For example:

The implication of their marketing seems to be that taking more steps leads to you being healthier.

Is there any evidence that clocking up more steps, measured using devices like these, leads to improved actual health outcomes (fewer heart attacks, for example), or surrogate measures of health (like blood pressure or resting heart rate, although I’m more interested in actual outcomes)?

  • This is a good question. You might, though, find it useful to include a link to a specific statement of the claim (of which there are many) as this will reduce the chance of the question being challenged as not having a specific claim to query. – matt_black Dec 29 '13 at 22:12
  • @matt_black: yeah, I did I think about that. A cursory search failed to turn up an obvious clear example sentence, but there must be examples around. – Paul D. Waite Dec 29 '13 at 22:18
  • More steps compared to what? Sitting all day on the couch? What about someone who cycles the whole day but does not walk? And someone who goes to the swimming pool for one hour a day, but goes there by car? And what if you do 10000 steps a day to get to your favourite fast-food place? – nico Dec 30 '13 at 11:17
  • @nico: primarily, I’m interested in more steps compared to fewer steps, all other things being equal. But I would also be interested in comparing, for example, the benefit of doubling the number of steps per day against doing one hour of swimming per week. – Paul D. Waite Dec 30 '13 at 14:12
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Yes, for example it makes you slimmer

A 10,000 steps·d−1 exercise prescription resulted in weight loss over 36 weeks in previously sedentary, overweight/obese adults. Adherence to the step goal had a marked effect on the outcome.

http://ajhpcontents.org/doi/abs/10.4278/0890-1171-21.2.85

Lowers your blood pressure

Our results indicate that walking 10,000 steps/days or more, irrespective of exercise intensity or duration, is effective in lowering blood pressure, increasing exercise capacity, and reducing sympathetic nerve activity in hypertensive patients.

http://europepmc.org/abstract/MED/11131268/reload=0;jsessionid=xGW7X7uGUDlAWWW90YNm.4

All in all, walking is an effective activity which qualifies your overall activity level

Based on currently available evidence, we propose the following preliminary indices be used to classify pedometer-determined physical activity in healthy adults: (i) <5000 steps/ day may be used as a ‘sedentary lifestyle index’; (ii) 5000–7499 steps/day is typical of daily activity excluding sports/exercise and might be considered ‘low active’; (iii) 7500–9999 likely includes some volitional activities (and/or elevated occupational activity demands) and might be considered ‘somewhat active’; and (iv) ≥10 000 steps/day indicates the point that should be used to classify individuals as ‘active’. Individuals who take >12 500 steps/day are likely to be classified as ‘highly active’.

http://www.health.utah.edu/peak/health_fitness/Tudor%20Locke%20Paper.pdf

Of course, an activity level of less than 10,000 steps can be offset by other exercise

When there is a deficit in daily steps, both sports and home activities can be used to supplement the daily steps to reach the daily step goal.

http://www.udel.edu/PT/PT%20Clinical%20Services/journalclub/noajc/10-11/January/Daily%20Step%20Goal%20of%2010,000%20Steps%20-%20A%20Literature%20Review.pdf

But, pay attention, only a subset of the podometers in commerce have a good performance:

Due to the variation that exists among models in regard to the internal mechanism and sensitivity, not all pedometers count steps accurately. Thus, it is important for researchers who use pedometers to assess physical activity to be aware of their accuracy and reliability.

http://www.researchgate.net/publication/9069101_Accuracy_and_reliability_of_10_pedometers_for_measuring_steps_over_a_400-m_walk/file/d912f508566eec3eab.pdf

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    What about the hypothesis that a monitoring device is a useful intervention? Does self-monitoring improve compliance? – user5582 Dec 29 '13 at 20:48
  • Yes, there's a better outcome, it's referenced in the articles but I don't think there's need to dig it up. – Sklivvz Dec 29 '13 at 20:49
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    @Articuno In a sense you are really only concerned if self-monitoring helps you, and that is a questions only you can answer. It certainly works for some (e.g. my better half). Other people are perfectly capable of being non-compliant about the self-monitoring... – dmckee Dec 30 '13 at 0:23
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    @dmckee Self-monitoring as an intervention is important to study as well. If it increases compliance with a suggested lifestyle modification, then that's important to know for physicians suggesting such lifestyle modifications. A physician would be interested to know what the cost-benefit tradeoff of these devices is. And yes, compliance with the self-monitoring is also something that would need to be assessed in pragmatic trials. – user5582 Dec 30 '13 at 4:37
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    This one came up in the Fitness SE (fitness.stackexchange.com/questions/29034/…) and I did find the interesting tidbit that, while the extra steps are good, using the calories tracking has been associated with weight gain (today.com/health/…). This is actually a common problem with exercise gadgets, because they typically over-report calories burned and people typically overeat even with accurate figures. – Sean Duggan Mar 3 '16 at 19:40

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