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How fast is fast enough? Walking cadence (steps/min) as a practical estimate of intensity in adults: a narrative review
  1. Catrine Tudor-Locke1,
  2. Ho Han1,
  3. Elroy J Aguiar1,
  4. Tiago V Barreira2,
  5. John M Schuna Jr3,
  6. Minsoo Kang4,
  7. David A Rowe5
  1. 1Department of Kinesiology, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Amherst, Massachusetts, USA
  2. 2Department of Exercise Science, Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York, USA
  3. 3School of Biological and Population Health Sciences, Oregon State University, Corvalis, Oregon, USA
  4. 4Department of Health, Exercise Science and Recreation Management, The University of Mississippi, Mississippi, USA
  5. 5School of Psychological Sciences and Health, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, UK
  1. Correspondence to Professor Catrine Tudor-Locke, Department of Kinesiology, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA 01002, USA; ctudorlocke{at}


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. Identified 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 defined 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. Identified 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.

Trial registration number NCT02650258

  • walking
  • exercise
  • physical activity

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  • Funding This work was supported by a grant from the National Institute on Aging, National Institute of Health: CADENCE-Adults, 5R01AG049024-03. The content of this manuscript is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.