The relationship between clinically assessed and free-living walking is unclear. Cadence (steps/min) can be measured accurately under both conditions using modern technologies, thus providing a common measurement metric. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to compare clinical and free-living cadence in older adults.
15 community-dwelling older adults (7 men, 8 women; 61–81 years) completed GAITRite-determined normal and dual-task walks and wore objective monitors for 1 week. Descriptive data included gait speed (cm/sec), steps/day, as well as cadence. Nonparametric tests evaluated differences between normal and dual-task walks and between accelerometer- and pedometer-determined steps/day. Free-living time detected above clinically determined cadence was calculated.
Participants crossed the GAITRite at 125.56 ± 15.51 cm/sec (men) and 107.93 ± 9.41 steps/min (women) during their normal walk and at 112.59 ± 17.90 cm/sec and 103.10 ± 1.30 steps/min during their dual-task walk (differences between walks P < .05). Overall, they averaged 7159 ± 2480 (accelerometer) and 7813 ± 2919 steps/day (pedometer; difference NS). On average, < 10 min/day was spent above clinically determined cadences.
High-functioning, community-dwelling older adults are capable of walking at relatively high cadences (ie, > 100 steps/min). However, the same behavior appears to be uncommon in daily life, even for a minute.