Using step activity monitoring to characterize ambulatory activity in community-dwelling older adults

J Am Geriatr Soc. 2007 Jan;55(1):120-4. doi: 10.1111/j.1532-5415.2006.00997.x.


Objectives: To explore the potential of using step activity monitoring to detect differences in ambulatory activity associated with advancing age and declining function in community-dwelling seniors.

Design: Cross-sectional pilot study.

Setting: General communities of Seattle, Washington; Catonsville, Maryland; and Durham, North Carolina.

Participants: Thirty healthy younger adults, 28 healthy older adults, and 12 older adults reporting functional limitations.

Measurements: Ambulatory activity data were collected over 6 days with the StepWatch 3. Average daily values were calculated for number of steps, number of minutes of activity, number of activity bouts, variability of minute-to-minute activity, and randomness of minute-to-minute activity fluctuations.

Results: Healthy older adults engaged in fewer bouts of activity (P=.03) and displayed less-variable activity (P=.02) than younger adults. Older adults reporting functional limitations not only engaged in fewer bouts of activity (P=.009) and less variable activity (P<.001) than younger adults, but also accumulated fewer total steps (P=.003) and minutes of activity (P=.008) and had less-random minute-to-minute activity fluctuations (P=.02).

Conclusion: Step activity monitoring data were useful for detecting differences in ambulatory activity according to age and functional limitation. Monitor-based measures reflecting patterns of ambulatory activity show promise for use in studies of physical functioning.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Body Mass Index
  • Computers
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mobility Limitation
  • Monitoring, Ambulatory / instrumentation*
  • Physical Exertion*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Walking / physiology*