No amount of walking can prevent weight gain by itself, according to a study which suggests that the widely practised standard of pacing 10,000 steps a day to lose weight may not be solely effective.
Researchers, including those from Brigham Young University in the US, studied 120 college freshmen over their first six months of college as they participated in a step-counting experiment.
According to the study, published in the Journal of Obesity, the participants walked either 10,000, 12,500 or 15,000 steps a day, six days a week for 24 weeks, while the scientists tracked the amount of calories the freshmen consumed and their weight.
The scientists examined if exceeding the recommended count of 10,000 steps per day would minimise weight and fat gain in the college students, the study noted.
According to the study, the students gained weight even if if they walked more than even 15,000 steps.
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Students in the study gained on average about 1.5 kilogrammes (kg) over the study period, the researchers said.
A one to four kilogramme average weight gain is commonly observed during the first academic year of college, according to earlier studies, they said.
“Exercise alone is not always the most effective way to lose weight,” said study lead author Bruce Bailey, professor of exercise science at BYU.
“If you track steps, it might have a benefit in increasing physical activity, but our study showed it won’t translate into maintaining weight or preventing weight gain,” Bailey said.
As part of the study, the participants wore pedometers 24 hours a day for the six-week study window.
On average, the students walked approximately 9,600 steps per day prior to the study.
By the end of the study, those in the 10,000-step group averaged 11,066 steps, those in the 12,500-step group averaged 13,638 steps, and participants in the 15,000-step group averaged 14,557 steps a day, the scientists said.
Although weight was not affected by the increased steps, there was a positive impact on physical activity patterns, which “may have other emotional and health benefits,” the researchers said in a statement.
They also found that sedentary time was drastically reduced in both the 12,500- and 15,000-step groups.
In the 15,000-step group, sedentary time decreased by as much as 77 minutes a day, they said.
“The biggest benefit of step recommendations is getting people out of a sedentary lifestyle. Even though it won’t prevent weight gain on its own, more steps is always better for you,” Bailey said.