How fast is fast enough? Walking cadence (steps/min) as a practical estimate of intensity in adults: A narrative review

Catrine Tudor-Locke, Ho Han, Elroy J. Aguiar, Tiago V. Barreira, John M. Schuna, Minsoo Kang, David A. Rowe

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

221 Scopus citations


Background Cadence (steps/min) may be a reasonable proxy-indicator of ambulatory intensity. A summary of current evidence is needed for cadence-based metrics supporting benchmark (standard or point of reference) and threshold (minimums associated with desired outcomes) values that are informed by a systematic process. Objective To review how fast, in terms of cadence, is enough, with reference to crafting public health recommendations in adults. Methods A comprehensive search strategy was conducted to identify relevant studies focused on walking cadence and intensity for adults. Identifed studies (n=38) included controlled (n=11), free-living observational (n=18) and intervention (n=9) designs. Results There was a strong relationship between cadence (as measured by direct observation and objective assessments) and intensity (indirect calorimetry). Despite acknowledged interindividual variability, =100 steps/min is a consistent heuristic (e.g, evidence-based, rounded) value associated with absolutely defned moderate intensity (3 metabolic equivalents (METs)). Epidemiological studies report notably low mean daily cadences (ie, 7.7 steps/min), shaped primarily by the very large proportion of time (13.5 hours/day) spent between zero and purposeful cadences (<60 steps/min) at the population level. Published values for peak 1-min and 30-min cadences in healthy free-living adults are >100 and >70 steps/min, respectively. Peak cadence indicators are negatively associated with increased age and body mass index. Identifed intervention studies used cadence to either prescribe and/or quantify ambulatory intensity but the evidence is best described as preliminary. Conclusions A cadence value of =100 steps/min in adults appears to be a consistent and reasonable heuristic answer to 'How fast is fast enough?' during sustained and rhythmic ambulatory behaviour.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)776-788
Number of pages13
JournalBritish journal of sports medicine
Issue number12
StatePublished - Jun 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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