Pedometers - a great way to tackle obesity in the young!

New research by Australian scientists has revealed that pedometers are as equally as effective in children as they are in adults in encouraging more physical activity.

Research has already found pedometers help encourage adults to be more active, but this is the first evidence to show that they work just as well with children.

The researchers at the University of Newcastle in New South Wales conducted a review and an analysis of 14 international studies where pedometers were used to track physical activity in children aged eight to 11 years and teenagers aged 14 to 17 years and they found that pedometers are a successful way of encouraging young people to get active.

Dr. David Lubans from the University's School of Education says prior to the study there was scant information about the effects of pedometers on physical activity among young people; he says recent studies looking at the impact of pedometers on adults found physical activity increased by around 2,000 steps per day and decreased body mass index and blood pressure levels and while pedometers appeared to have an important part to play in the promotion of activity among adults, much less was known regarding the impact on behaviour in youth.

Dr. Lubans says their research found that in 12 of the 14 studies, pedometers were successful in increasing physical activity among youngsters and increases of 500-2,500 steps per day were recorded and were most successful in increasing physical activity among pre-teens and teenagers with initially low levels of activity.

The basic premise underlying the use of pedometers to increase physical activity is that the immediate visual feedback of the number of steps taken increases awareness of how personal behaviour choices affect physical activity - pedometers are able to provide instant information which can be used to adjust activity plans to achieve physical activity objectives.

Dr. Lubans says young people in particular needed to be made more conscious of the benefits of physical activity on their long-term health and though youth participation in organised sports and activities has remained relatively stable over time, incidental activity has been eroded from the lives of many young people - and they also consume too much soft drink and junk food, and don't eat enough fruit and vegetables.

Dr. Lubans says the prevalence of obesity among Australian youth has accelerated since the early 1970s and latest data suggest around one quarter of young Australians are now overweight or obese and he believes this research sends a strong message that promoting the use of pedometers is an effective way to increase the amount of physical activity young people undertake.

The research is published in the latest edition of Preventive Medicine.

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