Do Pedometers Increase Physical Activity in Sedentary Older Women? A Randomized Controlled Trial


Address correspondence to Marion E. T. McMurdo, Ageing and Health, Division of Medical Sciences, Ninewells Hospital and Medical School, Dundee DD1 9SY, United Kingdom. E-mail:


OBJECTIVES: To determine the effectiveness of a behavior change intervention (BCI) with or without a pedometer in increasing physical activity in sedentary older women.

DESIGN: Prospective randomized controlled trial.

SETTING: Primary care, City of Dundee, Scotland.

PARTICIPANTS: Two hundred four sedentary women aged 70 and older.

INTERVENTIONS: Six months of BCI, BCI plus pedometer (pedometer plus), or usual care.

MEASUREMENTS: Primary outcome: change in daily activity counts measured by accelerometry. Secondary outcomes: Short Physical Performance Battery, health-related quality of life, depression and anxiety, falls, and National Health Service resource use.

RESULTS: One hundred seventy-nine of 204 (88%) women completed the 6-month trial. Withdrawals were highest from the BCI group (15/68) followed by the pedometer plus group (8/68) and then the control group (2/64). After adjustment for baseline differences, accelerometry counts increased significantly more in the BCI group at 3 months than in the control group (P=.002) and the pedometer plus group (P=.04). By 6 months, accelerometry counts in both intervention groups had fallen to levels that were no longer statistically significantly different from baseline. There were no significant changes in the secondary outcomes.

CONCLUSION: The BCI was effective in objectively increasing physical activity in sedentary older women. Provision of a pedometer yielded no additional benefit in physical activity, but may have motivated participants to remain in the trial.

Trial registration: ISRCTN26786857