It could be done in purposeful exercise such as walking. Or it could be done in short bouts such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator or hosting walking meetings at work. Participants were monitored for four weeks.
The 30-minute group averaged 8,270 steps a day, compared with 10,149 steps for the other group, according to the study in April's Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, the journal of the American College of Sports Medicine.
That's a difference of about a mile each day. One mile is anywhere from about 1,800 to 2,200 steps, depending on stride length.
"The pedometer is a constant reminder to walk more," says lead researcher Dixie Thompson, director of the university's Center for Physical Activity and Health. "More steps, more calories burned, more health benefits."
Another study by Thompson and colleagues showed that middle-aged women who walk 10,000 steps or more each day are more likely to be at a healthy weight.
Other experts support the use of step-counters. "It's very hard for people to track time when they are getting activity during the day — doing five minutes here, 10 minutes there — but they can track it with pedometers because every step counts," says James Hill, one of the co-founders of America on the Move. The national initiative encourages participants to add 2,000 steps a day to what they already are doing, then gradually increase their activity from there.
On average, Americans walk about 5,310 steps in a day, according to a poll conducted for America on the Move. "People can make big increases in the steps they take, but it works best if they do it in small increments," Hill says.