Tudor-Locke Examines Walking Cadence as Measure of Exercise Intensity

Catrine Tudor-Locke
Catrine Tudor-Locke

Catrine Tudor-Locke, professor of kinesiology and associate dean for research in the School of Public Health and Health Sciences, with members of her Physical Activity and Health Lab and others, is the first author of a new publication examining walking cadence as a reliable, consistent measure of exercise intensity.

In a comprehensive review of 38 relevant studies focused on walking cadence and intensity for adults, Tudor-Locke and team conclude that approximately 100 steps per minute qualifies as a good metric for moderate intensity levels in health adults, with vigorous walking beginning at approximately 130 steps per minute.

With step-counting now widely accepted in physical activity interventions, and the increasing availability and affordability of commercial wearable physical activity monitoring devices such as Fitbit, there is an opportunity to provide cadence-based values to guide and monitor healthful walking.

One of the added benefits of tracking cadence, however, is that it does not require such devices. Cadence can be determined simply by manually counting the number of steps accumulated during a 1-minute period (or by using multiples in still shorter increments), or more crudely by dividing the total number of steps accumulated during a bout of exercise by the duration of the bout (e.g., 3000 steps per 30 minutes = 100 steps per minute).

The study’s conclusion provides easy to understand guidelines for “brisk” exercise, with real-world implications for creating public health recommendations.

“For example,” the authors write, “walking cadence can be used to prescribe physical activity, shape behavior (e.g., in physical activity interventions and clinical therapeutic programs) and/or analyze behavior (e.g., making sense of data from research-grade and consumer-grade physical activity monitors).”

Tudor-Locke recently presented the study at a symposium during the American College of Sports Medicine’s 65th annual meeting in Minneapolis. It also appears in a special edition of the British Journal of Sports Medicine.