Useful tools and agencies


A pedometer is a simple tool that can be used to provide a measure of activity levels. These devices can be worn on a waistband and are designed to record the number of steps taken. They are relatively inexpensive and easily obtainable through a catalogue or sports shop.


3,000–6,000 steps per day = sedentary

7,000–10,000 steps per day = moderately active

>11,000 steps per day = very active

A baseline assessment can be made and goals to realistically increase the number of steps taken each week set in place. Many patients find being able to measure activity levels in this way extremely helpful and motivating.

Some GP practices have been able to make use of local physical activity referral schemes. Primary healthcare teams can refer suitable patients to a locally agreed specialist physical activity resource. The strategies employed vary across the country but the National Quality Assurance Framework for Exercise Referral Schemes provides guidelines for best practice within the whole system. A local PCT should be able to provide details of available schemes. Invite the local physical activity coordinator to your practice to give details of the scheme, who to refer and how.

‘Walking the way to health’ is an initiative of the British Heart Foundation and the Countryside Agency. Details of the scheme can be found at The scheme promotes walking as the ‘almost perfect exercise’ and aims to get more people walking in their own communities, especially those who take little exercise or live in areas of poor health. They offer information and support to the public and health professionals. They can supply step-o-meters to complement the ‘walk for health’ scheme (price dependant on the quantity ordered).

Information is available on ‘walking in your area’, which provides details of organized walks and who to contact. They have also produced packs containing clear details about local walks and easy-to-follow maps.

They give information about routes that:

  • Are pleasant and attractive places to walk
  • Are graded to show the level of difficulty
  • Are short and circular
  • Avoid crossing busy roads wherever possible

The initiative started in England in October 2000 and will run for 5 years.