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Exercise For Diabetes

Pedometer Motivation for Diabetes Management

When we wear a pedometer we can get the motivation we need to manage diabetes better. My friend John is the best example I know.

I recently visited him in Northern California for five days. Since each of us have both type 2 diabetes and like to get out in nature a lot, I thought that we might take some walks together.  But I had no idea how many, because I hadn’t known about his new pedometer.

Now that he wears a pedometer all the time, he hikes almost every day. And every day that we spent together, we got out in the woods or on the beach. He took me on seven hikes, one that took us nine hours to finish.

John Hikes from the Skyline to the Sea

His pedometer motivates him to count his daily steps. The longest hike we took together measured 39,000 steps and took us well over 13 miles, many of them much more challenging that where I took the photograph above. I wrote about that great hike in “From the Skyline to the Sea” in my Fitness and Photography for Fun blog.

John told me that he knows that this helps him to keep his A1C level down to 6.0. An A1C test measures the average blood sugar during the preceding two or three months. Most labs consider a level of 6.0 or less to be normal.

Two studies of pedometers for people with diabetes

After I returned home to Colorado, I discovered two studies that show how using a pedometer can improve the health of people with type 2 diabetes:

One study, “Effectiveness of an aerobic walking program using heart rate monitor and pedometer on the parameters of diabetes control in Asian Indians with type 2 diabetes,” in a 2010 issue of Primary Care Diabetes randomly assigned 40 adults with type 2 diabetes to either the study or the control group for 8 weeks. Fasting blood sugar levels “decreased significantly by 37 percent” in the study group. A1C levels went down and “general well-being” went up.

The other study, “Effect of progressive pedometer based walking intervention on quality of life and general well being among patients with type 2 diabetes,” published last November in the Journal of Diabetes & Metabolic Disorders randomly assigned 102 adults with type 2 diabetes to one of three groups for 16 weeks. The authors concluded that, “the results of this study clearly imply that 30 to 40 minutes per day/session of moderate-intensity walking with pedometer is an effective method for the sedentary type 2 diabetes individuals to enhance quality of life.”

John’s example

John’s example together with these two studies encouraged me to buy yet another pedometer. I must have lost half a dozen of them over the years. This time I got one that has a lanyard, and I also keep it in a pocket of my trousers where I am not even aware that it’s there. It was no coincidence that I took a long hike the day after I set up my newest pedometer.

John was 82 in January (I’m only 79). A young lady who we passed on the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail said that she hopes that she is in as great a shape as he is when she gets older. If she keeps on hiking, she may well be. And you can too.

This article is based on an earlier version of my article published by HealthCentral.

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  • Guy Durrant at

    I have two Omron pedometers. My favorite is an HJ-720IT which connects via USB to my computer. The pedometer stores 7 days usage one the display, and another ~35-40 days usage internally. It flashes a warning when time is running out. The application is a compiled Access database, and runs on Windows only; it also supports my Omron wrist blood pressure cuff via USB. The BP cuff requires a cumbersome, proprietary USB cable. I don’t remember if it was included or I bought it separately.

    The newer pedometer (HJ-323USB) also connects via built-in USB) and accesses an Omron website for step management. This pedo stores about 7 days walking so it needs to be connected to the computer weekly.

    I’ve never reached 39,000 steps in a day. My max has been about 20,000. My daily goal is 10,000 steps and 5000 “aerobic” steps (defined by Omron as walking at least 100 steps per minute for 10 uninterrupted minutes). My work routine usually results in about 6500 steps per day; if I want to reach the goals, I must deliberately go for a walk.

    I’ve also used pedo applications on an iPhone; some of the later iPod Nano models have built-in pedo functionality, but I prefer a dedicated pedometer.

    • David Mendosa at

      Yours must be quite similar to mine, Guy. I have an Omron HJ-323U that also lets me connect it to my computer and store my data there.

  • Beverly at

    May 31, 2015
    Hi David,
    I am an 82 year old female who was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in October, 2000. My daughter bought me a Fitbit Charge HR for my birthday last March. Several family members also have Fitbits. We challenge each other through the Fitbit site to make it interesting. I have lost 13 pounds since March 14 (2 1/2 months) My daily average is 5,000 steps, (it was 1,000 steps), but in challenges I’ve gone past 12,000 steps. I have not been able to lose weight with any other method and it’s fun to try to beat the younger ones. I go the extra mile and track my eating on the Fitbit site also. I love Fitbit!!!!
    I highly recommend it.

    • David Mendosa at

      Thanks for your recommendation, Beverly. I know that other readers will appreciate it too.

  • Jane at

    I’m researching pedometers & activity devices such as Fitbit & other brands. Does anyone have comments regarding a pedometer vs. activity devices? Thanks.

  • Jane at

    I’ve been thinking of getting one. I’ve lost a few cheap ones over the years. Not only would it be integral to diabetes management, but I’m now recovering from back surgery and walking in gradual increments is part of the therapy.

    • David Mendosa at

      I hope that you get one, Jane. Personally, I like the Omron brand best, but even less expensive ones will help. Your point about losing them is important. I have lost many of them, but the one that I am wearing now has a lanyard (a cord) that attaches to my jeans and sits in a pocket so unobtrusively that I am never aware of it until I want to see how many steps I have taken. Then, the problem is to make sure that I take it out of the pocket before I throw the jeans into the laundry!

      With metta,