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10,000 steps: A research methods example

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After covering experiments and correlations in Intro Psych or as a research methods booster in the Stress & Health chapter, ask your students if they have heard that you should walk 10,000 steps a day. Do they know where that recommendation comes from? Did anyone guess that it seems to come from a 1964 Japanese marketing campaign for a pedometer (“Do you really need to take 10,000 steps a day to keep fit?,” 2015)?

Recent correlational research with almost 17,000 women aged 62-101 (average age 72) found that those who took about 4,400 steps per day were 41% less likely to die during the study (mean study length: 4.3 years) than those who took 2,700 per day. The more steps walked per day, the lower the mortality. Benefits maxed out at 7,500 steps; walking more than that did not reduce mortality rates. Annually, researchers asked participants for “sociodemographic characteristics, health habits, and personal and family medical history,” as well as at the start of the study, “a 131-item food frequency questionnaire.” All things being equal, those who walked more (up to 7,500 steps per day), lived longer (Lee et al., 2019). When you have this many participants who are in that age range, you can use mortality as your primary dependent measure.

Experimental research using other dependent measures such as blood pressure (Moreau et al., 2001) and cholesterol (Dasgupta et al., 2017; Sugiura et al., 2002) have found benefits to increasing number of steps walked per day.

With students working in small groups, ask students to design an experiment to test the effects of walking on a dependent measure of their choosing. How many levels of the independent variable would they use? How would they ensure the number of steps walked by their participants? What dependent measures would they choose? How long would they run the study? What population would they choose as participants?

Visit the groups answering any questions they may have. After the groups have finished their discussion, ask each group to report their independent variable and dependent variables. Complete this activity by explaining to students the importance of understanding the theory behind the research (on what dependent measures can we expect a benefit of exercise?), the importance of reading research articles on what has already been done (what have others found and how may that inform our study?), and the importance of doing research in many different ways (such as using different operational definitions).

 

References

Dasgupta, K., Rosenberg, E., Joseph, L., Cooke, A. B., Trudeau, L., Bacon, S., … Smarter Trial Group. (2017). Physician step prescription and monitoring to improve ARTERial health (SMARTER): A randomized controlled trial in patients with type 2 diabetes and hypertension. Diabetes, Obesity, and Metabolism, 19(5), 685–704. https://doi.org/10.1111/dom.12874

Do you really need to take 10,000 steps a day to keep fit? (2015, June 17). BBC News. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-33154510

Lee, I.-M., Shiroma, E. J., Kamada, M., Bassett, D. R., Matthews, C. E., & Buring, J. E. (2019). Association of step volume and intensity with all-cause mortality in older women. JAMA Internal Medicine. https://doi.org/10.1001/jamainternmed.2019.0899

Moreau, K. L., Degamo, R., Langley, J., McMahon, C., Howley, E. T., Bassett Jr, D. R., & Thompson, D. L. (2001). Increasing daily walking lowers blood pressure in postmenopausal women. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 33(11), 1825–1831.

Sugiura, H., Suguira, H., Kajima, K., Mirbod, S. M., Iwata, H., & Matsuoka, T. (2002). Effects of long-term moderate exercise and increase in number of daily steps on serum lipids in women: Randomised controlled trial. BMC Women’s Health, 2(1).

About the Author
Sue Frantz has taught psychology in community colleges since 1992, and has been at Highline College in the Seattle area since 2001. She has served on several APA boards and committees, and was proud to serve the members of the Society for the Teaching of Psychology as their 2018 president. In 2013, she was the inaugural recipient of the APA award for Excellence in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning at a Two-Year College or Campus. She received in 2016 the highest award for the teaching of psychology--the Charles L. Brewer Distinguished Teaching of Psychology Award . She presents nationally and internationally on the topics of educational technology and the pedagogy of psychology. She is co-author with Doug Bernstein and Steve Chew of Teaching Psychology: A Step-by-Step Guide, 3rd ed.