Step Accumulation per Minute Epoch Is Not the Same as Cadence for Free-Living Adults

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Abstract

Purpose

The term cadence has been used interchangeably to describe both the rate of stepping and the number of steps in a minute epoch. This is only strictly true if walking is continuous within that epoch. This study directly compared these two outcomes in minute epochs of data from free-living adults to assess the scale of any difference between them.

Methods

A convenience sample of healthy adults wore an activPAL activity monitor for 7 d. The event record output of the activPAL, providing the start time and duration of each stride to the nearest 0.1 s, was used to calculate step accumulation (number of steps), duration of walking, and cadence (number of steps/duration of walking) for each minute of measurement.

Results

Data from 117 individuals (78 females; mean age, 46 ± 16 yr; mean body mass index, 24.9 ± 3.7 kg·m−2) were analyzed. Twenty-one percent of minutes (n = 310d−1) contained walking. The distribution (most minutes fewer than 40 steps per minute) and mean (34 ± 9 steps per minute) of step accumulation were very different from that of cadence (most minutes between 60 and 100 steps per minute; mean, 76 ± 6 steps per minute). Only 12% of minutes with stepping were walked continuously, whereas 69% of minutes with stepping contained less than 30 s of walking. This is key to the difference between step accumulation and cadence, and means that cadence cannot be reconstructed from step accumulation without also knowing the duration that was walked.

Conclusion

Step accumulation, the number of steps in a fixed period, and cadence, the rate of stepping while walking, are not interchangeable outcome measures. It is vitally important that unambiguous terminology is used to describe the rate of stepping so that the outcomes of studies can be correctly interpreted.

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