News
News story

Study finds increase in step-count leads to long term health benefits

A new study involving researchers from Queen Mary University of London found that short-term pedometer interventions produce significant health benefits several years later.

25 June 2019


The research, which followed up 12-week pedometer-based walking trials in adults, showed long-term health benefits for the participants four years later.

Participants who used pedometers in the PACE-UP and PACE-LIFT studies showed significantly fewer cardiovascular events, including heart attacks and strokes, as well as suffering fewer fractures, compared with those in the control groups in the studies.

Sally Kerry from Queen Mary’s Blizard institute said: “The Pragmatic Clinical Trials Unit at Queen Mary worked with the team at St Georges to design, conduct and analyse both PACE-Up and PACE-Lift trials, which demonstrate that a simple short-term pedometer-based walking intervention can produce an increase in step-counts over several years and importantly, long-term health effects.

“This latest paper is novel in using patients' routine primary care records to demonstrate reduced cardiovascular events and fractures four years later.” 

Intervention effects

The original PACE-UP and PACE-LIFT clinical trials were led by Professor Tess Harris of St George’s, University of London and funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR). In both studies, groups of primary care patients were given pedometers, 12-week walking programmes, and physical activity diaries. The patients in PACE-UP were predominantly inactive 45-75 year olds, while in PACE-LIFT the patients were 60-75 years old. In both groups, the intervention patients were found to have increased their activity levels 12 months later and also 3-4 years later, compared to patients in a control group.

In this study, the researchers sought to link trial data with participants’ primary care records to test the intervention effects from both trials on longer-term health outcomes. They looked at the electronic primary care data records for 1001 PACE-UP and 296 PACE-LIFT participants. They found that there were significantly fewer new cardiovascular events and fractures in intervention participants at 4 years. Approximately 60 people needed to receive the walking intervention to prevent one cardiovascular event and approximately 28 to prevent one fracture.

Professor Tess Harris said: “With each stage of these trials we have seen that simple short-term pedometer-based walking interventions can produce an increase in step-counts and in the time that people spend doing moderate intensity physical activity; and now we can see corresponding long-term health effects. This type of intervention can have a long-lasting effect and should be used more widely to help address the public health physical inactivity challenge.”

This study was also carried out by researchers at Brunel University, King’s College London, University College London and the Norwegian School of Sports Sciences.

More information:

  • Effect of pedometer-based walking interventions on long-term health outcomes: prospective 4-year follow-up of two randomised controlled trials using routine primary care data has been published in peer-reviewed open access journal PLOS Medicine.

Related items

For media information, contact:

Joel Winston
Faculty Communications Manager (Medicine and Dentistry)
email: j.winston@qmul.ac.uk