Steps That Count: Physical Activity Recommendations, Brisk Walking, and Steps Per Minute—How Do They Relate?

in Journal of Physical Activity and Health
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Background:

Brisk walking is recommended as a form of health-enhancing physical activity. This study determines the steps/minute rate corresponding to self-paced brisk walking (SPBW); a predicted steps/minute rate for moderate physical activity (MPA) and a comparison of the 2 findings.

Methods:

A convenience sample (N = 58: 34 men, 24 women, 31.7 ± 7.7yrs), wearing pedometers and a heart rate (HR) monitor, performed SPBW for 10 minutes and 5 indoor sessions, regulated by a metronome (ranging from 60–120 steps/minute). Using steps/minute and HR data of the trials, a steps/minute rate for MPA was predicted. Adjustments were subsequently made for aerobic fitness (using maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max) estimates), age, and sex as possible contributors to stepping rate differences.

Results:

Average steps/minute rate for SPBW was 118 ± 9 (116 ± 9; 121 ± 8 for men/women, respectively; P = .022); predicted steps/minute rate for MPA was 122 ± 37 (127 ± 36; 116 ± 39 for men/women, respectively; P < .99) and was similar to steps/minute rate of SPBW (P = .452), even after adjusting for age, sex, and aerobic fitness.

Conclusion:

Steps/minute rates of SPBW correlates closely with targeted HR for MPA, independent of aerobic fitness; predicted steps/minute rate for MPA relates closely to steps/minute rates of SPBW. Findings support current PA messages that use the term brisk walking as a reference for MPA.

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. Proper is with the Dept of Public and Occupational Health and the EMGO Institute, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, North Holland, Netherlands. van Mechelen is with the Dept of Public and Occupational Health, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, North Holland, Netherlands.