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Practice nurses can help elderly do more walking

Practice nurses can have an impact on getting older people to do more walking, a study suggests.

A programme in Glasgow that offered patients over 65 a pedometer in addition to two consultations to discuss a walking plan significantly increased their activity levels.

Rather than setting a universal goal for the number of steps taken a day, the idea was to increase the number of steps from the patients’ own baseline.

Participants were also given details of an optional walking group, which met twice weekly and walked routes in the local area.

The research showed an increase in step counts by about 2,000 a day compared with a control group whose activity was measured but who were given no advice.

And the effect was maintained for the 24 weeks of follow up, the researchers said.

In the second half of the study, the control group were also given a walking plan and two 30-minute consultations and their step counts also increased.

Daily activity was also measured using a device which measures activity levels but without the user being able to see the results.

This turned out to be a more accurate way to monitor the success of the programme but the pedometer was a good way to motivate participants, the researchers reported in Family Practice.

Walking seems to be a type of activity that older people can sustain over time, the researchers concluded, while pointing out that a larger study was needed.

‘The increases in step counts we observed are less than we found in a similar study of working age adults.

‘However, such increases will confer health benefits to these older adults,’ they said.