Walking cadence (steps/min) and intensity in 41 to 60-year-old adults: the CADENCE-adults study

Catrine Tudor-Locke, Scott W. Ducharme, Elroy J. Aguiar, John M. Schuna, Tiago V. Barreira, Christopher C. Moore, Colleen J. Chase, Zachary R. Gould, Marcos A. Amalbert-Birriel, Jose Mora-Gonzalez, Stuart R. Chipkin, John Staudenmayer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


Background: In younger adults (i.e., those < 40 years of age) a walking cadence of 100 steps/min is a consistently supported threshold indicative of absolutely-defined moderate intensity ambulation (i.e., ≥ 3 metabolic equivalents; METs). Less is known about the cadence-intensity relationship in adults of middle-age. Purpose: To establish heuristic (i.e., evidence-based, practical, rounded) cadence thresholds for absolutely-defined moderate (3 METs) and vigorous (6 METs) intensity in adults 41 to 60 years of age. Methods: In this cross-sectional study, 80 healthy adults of middle-age (10 men and 10 women representing each 5-year age-group between 41 to 60 years; body mass index = 26.0 ± 4.0 kg/m2) walked on a treadmill for 5-min bouts beginning at 0.5 mph and increasing in 0.5 mph increments. Performance termination criteria included: 1) transitioning to running, 2) reaching 75% of age-predicted maximum heart rate, or 3) reporting a Borg rating of perceived exertion > 13. Cadence was directly observed (i.e., hand tallied). Intensity (i.e., oxygen uptake [VO2] mL/kg/min) was assessed with an indirect calorimeter and converted to METs (1 MET = 3.5 mL/kg/min). A combination of segmented regression and Receiver Operating Characteristic (ROC) modeling approaches was used to identify optimal cadence thresholds. Final heuristic thresholds were determined based on an evaluation of classification accuracy (sensitivity, specificity, positive and negative predictive value, overall accuracy). Results: The regression model identified 101.7 (95% Predictive Interval [PI]: 54.9–110.6) and 132.1 (95% PI: 122.0–142.2) steps/min as optimal cadence thresholds for 3 METs and 6 METs, respectively. Corresponding values based on ROC models were 98.5 (95% Confidence Intervals [CI]: 97.1–104.9) and 117.3 (95% CI: 113.1–126.1) steps/min. Considering both modeling approaches, the selected heuristic thresholds for moderate and vigorous intensity were 100 and 130 steps/min, respectively. Conclusions: Consistent with our previous report in 21 to 40-year-old adults, cadence thresholds of 100 and 130 steps/min emerged as heuristic values associated with 3 and 6 METs, respectively, in 41 to 60-year-old adults. These values were selected based on their utility for public health messaging and on the trade-offs in classification accuracy parameters from both statistical methods. Findings will need to be confirmed in older adults and in free-living settings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number137
JournalInternational Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2020


  • Accelerometer
  • Exercise
  • Pedometer
  • Physical activity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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