Walking cadence (steps/min) and intensity in 61–85-year-old adults: the CADENCE-Adults study

Catrine Tudor-Locke, Jose Mora-Gonzalez, 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, Stuart R. Chipkin, John Staudenmayer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


Background: Heuristic (i.e., evidence-based, rounded) cadences of ≥100 and ≥ 130 steps/min have consistently corresponded with absolutely-defined moderate (3 metabolic equivalents [METs]) and vigorous (6 METs) physical activity intensity, respectively, in adults 21–60 years of age. There is no consensus regarding similar thresholds in older adults. Purpose: To provide heuristic cadence thresholds for 3, 4, 5, and 6 METs in 61–85-year-old adults. Methods: Ninety-eight community-dwelling ambulatory and ostensibly healthy older adults (age = 72.6 ± 6.9 years; 49% women) walked on a treadmill for a series of 5-min bouts (beginning at 0.5 mph with 0.5 mph increments) in this laboratory-based cross-sectional study until: 1) transitioning to running, 2) reaching ≥75% of their age-predicted maximum heart rate, or 3) reporting a Borg rating of perceived exertion > 13. Cadence was directly observed and hand-tallied. Intensity (oxygen uptake [VO2] mL/kg/min) was assessed with indirect calorimetry and converted to METs (1 MET = 3.5 mL/kg/min). Cadence thresholds were identified via segmented mixed effects model regression and using Receiver Operating Characteristic (ROC) curves. Final heuristic cadence thresholds represented an analytical compromise based on classification accuracy (sensitivity, specificity, positive and negative predictive value, and overall accuracy). Results: Cadences of 103.1 (95% Prediction Interval: 70.0–114.2), 116.4 (105.3–127.4), 129.6 (118.6–140.7), and 142.9 steps/min (131.8–148.4) were identified for 3, 4, 5, and 6 METs, respectively, based on the segmented regression. Comparable values based on ROC analysis were 100.3 (95% Confidence Intervals: 95.7–103.1), 111.5 (106.1–112.9), 116.0 (112.4–120.2), and 128.6 steps/min (128.3–136.4). Heuristic cadence thresholds of 100, 110, and 120 were associated with 3, 4, and 5 METs. Data to inform a threshold for ≥6 METs was limited, as only 6/98 (6.0%) participants achieved this intensity. Conclusions: Consistent with previous data collected from 21–40 and 41–60-year-old adults, heuristic cadence thresholds of 100, 110, and 120 steps/min were associated with 3, 4, and 5 METs, respectively, in 61–85-year-old adults. Most older adults tested did not achieve the intensity of ≥6 METs; therefore, our data do not support establishing thresholds corresponding with this intensity level. Trial registration: Clinicaltrials.gov NCT02650258. Registered 24 December2015.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number129
JournalInternational Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2021


  • Accelerometer
  • Exercise
  • Pedometer
  • Physical activity
  • Step rate

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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