Open Access Open Badges Research article

A systematic review of studies using pedometers as an intervention for musculoskeletal diseases

Suliman Mansi1*, Stephan Milosavljevic2, G David Baxter1, Steve Tumilty1 and Paul Hendrick3

Author Affiliations

1 School of Physiotherapy, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand

2 School of Physiotherapy, University of Saskatchewan, 1121 College Drive, Saskatoon, SK S7N 0 W3, Canada

3 Division of Physiotherapy Education, The University of Nottingham, Nottingham NG5, UK

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BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders 2014, 15:231  doi:10.1186/1471-2474-15-231

Published: 10 July 2014



Physical activity (PA) plays an important role in the prevention and management of a number of chronic conditions. Aim: to investigate the evidence for effectiveness of pedometer-driven walking programs to promote physical activity among patients with musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs).


A comprehensive systematic review was performed using 11 electronic databases up to 20 February 2014. Keywords and MeSH terms included “musculoskeletal disorders”, “walking”, and “pedometer”. Randomized controlled trials, published in English, that examined the effects of a pedometer-based walking intervention to increase physical activity levels and improve physical function and pain in patients with musculoskeletal disorders were included.


Of the 1996 articles retrieved, seven studies ranging in date of publication from 1998 to 2013 met the inclusion criteria, allowing data extraction on 484 participants with an age range of 40 to 82 years. Interventions lasted from 4 weeks to 12 months and the results across studies showed significant increases in step count (p < 0.05) following the intervention. Across these studies, there was a mean increase in PA of 1950 steps per day relative to baseline. Four studies reported improved scores for pain and/or physical function at the intervention completion point relative to controls.


This study provides strong evidence for the effectiveness of pedometer walking interventions in increasing PA levels for patients with MSDs. Our findings suggest that a combination of interventions is likely to be the most effective strategy to maximize health benefits in the short term. Further research should include larger sample sizes, and longer intervention durations are required to support the role of pedometer walking interventions as a long term intervention for management of musculoskeletal disorders.

Motion sensors; Physical activity; Motivation tools; Pedometer; Chronic disease; Step counter