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Steps to a better Belfast: physical activity assessment and promotion in primary care

Heron, Neil; Tully, Mark A; McKinley, Michelle C; Cupples, Margaret E


Mark A Tully

Michelle C McKinley

Margaret E Cupples


Background Low physical activity (PA) levels which increase the risk of chronic disease are reported by two-thirds of the general UK population. Promotion of PA by primary healthcare professionals is advocated but more evidence is needed regarding effective ways of integrating this within everyday practice. This study aims to explore the feasibility of a randomised trial of a pedometer-based intervention, using step-count goals, recruiting patients from primary care.

Method Patients, aged 35–75, attending four practices in socioeconomically deprived areas, were invited to complete a General Practice PA Questionnaire during routine consultations. Health professionals invited ‘inactive’ individuals to a pedometer-based intervention and were randomly allocated to group 1 (prescribed a self-determined goal) or group 2 (prescribed a specific goal of 2500 steps/day above baseline). Both groups kept step-count diaries and received telephone follow-up at 1, 2, 6 and 11 weeks. Step counts were reassessed after 12 weeks.

Results Of the 2154 patients attending, 192 questionnaires were completed (8.9%). Of these, 83 were classified as ‘inactive’; 41(10 men; 31 women) completed baseline assessments, with the mean age of participants being 51 years. Mean baseline step counts were similar in group 1 (5685, SD 2945) and group 2 (6513, SD 3350). The mean increase in steps/day was greater in groups 1 than 2 ((2602, SD 1957) vs (748, SD 1997) p=0.005).

Conclusions A trial of a pedometer-based intervention using self-determined step counts appears feasible in primary care. Pedometers appear acceptable to women, particularly at a perimenopausal age, when it is important to engage in impact loading activities such as walking to maintain bone mineral density. An increase of 2500 steps/day is achievable for inactive patients, but the effectiveness of different approaches to realistic goal-setting warrants further study.

Journal Article Type Article
Online Publication Date Feb 12, 2013
Publication Date 2014-11
Deposit Date Dec 1, 2023
Journal British Journal of Sports Medicine
Print ISSN 0306-3674
Electronic ISSN 1473-0480
Publisher BMJ Publishing Group
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 48
Issue 21
Pages 1558-1563
Keywords Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation; Orthopedics and Sports Medicine; General Medicine