Small, achievable goals may be more effective in helping sedentary adults maintain fitness programs than more challenging goals. Results of a study of sedentary adults who set varying levels of fitness goals for an eight-week period were presented today at the 52nd American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) Annual Meeting in Nashville, Tenn.

Seventy-eight people were involved in the study: 48 women and 30 men, ranging in age from 30 to 58. All were inactive when they began the study. At the start of the research project, participants wore pedometers to measure the number of steps they took each day. This gave researchers a baseline number for each participant, which was an average of 5,510 steps per day. The people in the study were then randomly assigned to one of two groups. One group was given a goal of 10,000 steps a day. The other group was given a goal of increasing the number of daily steps by 2,500 over their baseline. A control group was also measured at the start of the study, but not given a goal to increase steps.

At the end of the eight-week study, both groups with goals to increase steps showed significant improvement in daily activity, as compared to the control group, which had no significant increase in activity. Those who set a goal of 10,000 steps per day averaged an increase of 3,036 steps over their baseline. Those with a goal of adding 2,500 steps had an increase of 2,879 steps each day.

?What's most interesting is 42.3 percent of the people who set the smaller goal, increasing steps by 2,500, were able to stick to their goal on four out of seven days in the eight-week study,? said Mark Davis, M.Ph., lead researcher. ?Only 15.4 percent of those who had a goal of taking 10,000 steps per day met this goal on four days out of seven in the study period.?

Davis points out that the goal of taking 10,000 steps a day is widely promoted as a measure of moderate physical activity. With the growing popularity of pedometers, many people use this 10,000 step number as a goal.

?Based on our study results, smaller goals, such as increasing daily steps by 2,500 steps at a time, might in fact be a more effective way to help people not only reach a desired physical activity goal, but also stick with it.?

ACSM's 52nd Annual Meeting is going on now at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center. For more information on the event, or to speak with ACSM Communications and Public Information staff, please call (615) 458-0996.

The American College of Sports Medicine is the largest sports medicine and exercise science organization in the world. More than 20,000 international, national, and regional members are dedicated to promoting and integrating scientific research, education, and practical applications of sports medicine and exercise science to maintain and enhance physical performance, fitness, health, and quality of life.

NOTE: The conclusions outlined in this news release are those of the researchers only, and should not be construed as an official statement of the American College of Sports Medicine.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: ACSM's 52nd Annual Meeting takes place June 1-4, 2005. After June 4, please call the ACSM Communications and Public Information office at (317) 637-9200 ext. 117 or 127.