Steps That Count: The Association Between the Number and Intensity of Steps Accumulated and Fitness and Health Measures

in Journal of Physical Activity and Health
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Pedometer-based recommendations for accumulating steps/d largely focus on volume, with less emphasis on intensity and fitness/health outcomes. We aim to examine this relationship.


A convenience sample (N = 70, 35 men, 32 ± 8yrs) wore a pedometer (4 days). The pedometer classified steps as “aerobic” (≥ 60 steps/minute, minimum duration of 1 minute) or “non-aerobic” (< 60 steps/minute and/or < 1 minute). Estimated maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max), derived from a 12-minute submaximal step-test, and health outcomes: blood pressure (BP), body mass index (BMI), percentage body fat (%BF), and waist circumference (WC) were correlated with pedometer data. Participants were grouped according to number and intensity of steps: LOW (< 5000 steps/d), HIGH-LOW (≥ 5000 steps/d, no aerobic steps), HIGH-HIGH (≥ 5000 steps/d, including some aerobic steps). Analyses of covariance, adjusting for age, gender, and total steps/d were used to compare groups.


Average steps/d was 6520 ± 2306. Total steps/d and total time spent accumulating “aerobic” steps (minutes/day) were inversely associated with %BF, BMI, WC, and systolic BP (P < .05). After adjusting for gender and total steps/d, %BF was different between all 3 groups, VO2max was different between the LOW and HIGH-HIGH groups, WC was lower in the HIGH-HIGH versus the other 2 groups (P < .03, respectively).


Intensity seems an important factor to consider in steps/d cut-points.

Pillay is with the Dept of Basic Medical Sciences, Durban University of Technology, Durban, KwaZulu Natal, South Africa. Kolbe-Alexander and Lambert are with the UCT/MRC Research Unit for Exercise Science and Sports Medicine, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa. van Mechelen is with the Dept of Public and Occupational Health, VU University Medical Centre, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.