Walking intervention shows long-term benefits

Short term pedometer-based walking interventions can have long-term health benefits for adults and older adults, according to new research published in the journal PLOS Medicine.

Researchers team studied data from 1,297 participants of the PACE-UP and PACE-Lift trials. People in the intervention arms were less likely to have a cardiovascular event than those in the control arms. No differences were seen in incidence of diabetes or depression in people in the intervention as compared with those in the control arms, according to the study abstract.

Based on these observations, about 61 people would need to receive the walking intervention to prevent one cardiovascular event and 28 people to prevent one fracture, researchers said. Although the rates of adverse health events were low in this study and were restricted to only those recorded in primary care records, under-recording would not have differed by intervention status, so should not have led to bias.

Tess Harris, PhD, and colleagues from St. George's University of London in the United Kingdom and other institutions conducted two randomized controlled trials of 12-week pedometer-based walking interventions in primary care were followed up with long-term data from primary health records at four years. The goal was to increase step count and physical activity. Investigators saw sustained increases in physical activity at three to four years in the intervention group participants and noted fewer cardiovascular events and fractures.

Physical activity has been shown to be protective for many health conditions, and inactivity is a key risk factor contributing to the global burden of disease. However, long-term follow-up of physical activity trials is lacking.

The authors note that short-term walking interventions can produce long-term health benefits and should be more widely used to help address the public heath inactivity challenge.