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BYU study: Wearing a pedometer can increase step counts

By Ashtyn Asay - | Sep 20, 2022

Yuki Iwamura, Associated Press

The Apple Watch Series 8 are displayed at the Apple Fifth Avenue store, Friday, Sept. 16, 2022, in New York.

According to a new study conducted by researchers at Brigham Young University, wearing a step-tracker is an easy way to get more steps in per day — even if you don’t look at it.

The study found that individuals who wore a pedometer throughout the day walked an average of 318 more steps per day than those who didn’t wear one.

“Humans are hardwired to respond to what is being measured because if it’s being measured, it feels like it matters,” Bill Tayler, one of the paper’s authors and a BYU Marriott School of Business professor said, in a press release. “When people go get an Apple Watch or a Fitbit, of course it’s going to affect their behavior; they obtained the device with the goal of walking more. But it’s helpful for individuals to know that even without trying, just being aware that something is tracking your steps increases your activity.”

Those who wore a pedometer took more steps per day even if they didn’t look at their step count or make a specific goal to walk more.

“We wanted to find out, absent goals and incentives, does simply tracking fitness change behavior? Until this study, no one had convincingly shown what we’ve shown — from an academic point of view, it turns out this is a super hard question to answer,” Tayler said.

In order to get these findings, researchers first pulled information from the iPhones of 90 study participants, with permission, in order to get baseline information on how much they typically walked. This was measured using the phone’s step tracking feature.

“It was a bit of a sneaky way to get the data we needed,” Tayler said.

Some of the study participants were given a pedometer without a display and others were not.

After two weeks, researchers were able to use the data from the subjects without a pedometer and compare that with the data from those who did and found that those who wore pedometers ended up taking more steps throughout the day.

“Measurement and tracking precede improvement,” Christian Tadje, a BYU graduate who spearheaded the research as a student working with the Healthcare Industry Research Collaborative, said in a press release. “If you want something to improve — for example, a key performance indicator in the workplace or a personal health goal — our study shows that you should consider tracking your progress.”

The paper was also coauthored by BYU professors James LeCheminant and Joe Price and was published in the American Journal of Health Behavior earlier this month.


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