The randomised controlled trial included 298 people aged 60-75 from three UK general practices who received standard care or an intervention to increase their physical activity levels.
Patients in the intervention group had four consultations with a practice nurse over three months, were given a walking plan and pedometer, and were asked to keep a dairy of their daily step count. At three months and 12 months both groups were asked to wear accelerometers, which gave an objective measurement of the their physical activity.
At three months the intervention group’s average daily step count was 1037 steps higher than that of the control group (95% confidence interval, 513 to 1560). The intervention group also spent 63 more minutes a week in moderate to vigorous bouts of physical activity of at least 10 minutes (40 to 87).
After a year these differences were 609 steps a day (104 to 1115) and 40 minutes a week (17 to 63).
The researchers calculated that a 40 minute weekly difference between the two groups in activity, if sustained, would be expected to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease by about 5.5% and of type 2 diabetes by 9.1%.