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Open Access Study protocol

Steps that count! : The development of a pedometer-based health promotion intervention in an employed, health insured South African population

Julian D Pillay12*, Tracy L Kolbe-Alexander1, Karin I Proper3, Willem van Mechelen3 and Estelle V Lambert1

Author Affiliations

1 UCT/MRC Research Unit for Exercise Science and Sports Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa

2 Department of Basic Medical Sciences, Faculty of Health Sciences, Durban University of Technology, Durban, South Africa

3 Department of Public and Occupational Health, EMGO Institute for Health and Care Research, VU University Medical Centre, Amsterdam, Netherlands

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BMC Public Health 2012, 12:880  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-12-880

Published: 17 October 2012

Abstract

Background

Physical activity (PA) has been identified as a central component in the promotion of health. PA programs can provide a low cost intervention opportunity, encouraging PA behavioral change while worksites have been shown to be an appropriate setting for implementing such health promotion programs. Along with these trends, there has been an emergence of the use of pedometers as a self-monitoring and motivational aid for PA.

This study determines the effectiveness of a worksite health promotion program comprising of a 10-week, pedometer-based intervention (“Steps that Count!”), and individualized email-based feedback to effect PA behavioral change.

Methods

The study is a randomized controlled trial in a worksite setting, using pedometers and individualized email-based feedback to increase steps per day (steps/d). Participant selection will be based on attendance at a corporate wellness event and information obtained, following the completion of a Health Risk Appraisal (HRA), in keeping with inclusion criteria for the study. All participants will, at week 1 (pre-intervention), be provided with a blinded pedometer to assess baseline levels of PA. Participants will be provided with feedback on pedometer data and identify strategies to improve daily PA towards current PA recommendations. Participants will thereafter be randomly assigned to the intervention group (INT) or control group (CTL). The INT will subsequently wear an un-blinded pedometer for 10 consecutive weeks.

Individualized feedback messages based on average steps per day, derived from pedometer data (INT) and general supportive/motivational messages (INT+CTL), will be provided via bi-weekly e-mails; blinded pedometer-wear will be conducted at week 12 (post-intervention: INT+CTL).

Discussion

The purpose of this paper is to outline the rationale behind, and the development of, an intervention aimed at improving ambulatory PA through pedometer use, combined with regular, individualized, email-based feedback. Pedometer-measured PA and individualized feedback may be a practical and easily applied intervention.

Trial registration

Number: DOH-27-0112-3951

Keywords:
Pedometer; Health risk appraisal; Physical activity; Computer-based feedback