Cadence patterns and peak cadence in US children and adolescents: NHANES, 2005-2006

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2012 Sep;44(9):1721-7. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e318254f2a3.


Cadence (steps per minute) is one of the temporal-spatial parameters of walking gait, is related to intensity, and can be used to identify patterns of ambulatory behavior in free living by tracking time spent at incrementally higher cadences. In addition, peak cadence, a simple indicator of best natural ambulatory effort, can be captured. Such indicators have been used to study adult ambulatory behavior in a representative sample, but similar analyses for children and adolescents are limited to a single small and select sample.

Purpose: The study's purpose was to describe in children and adolescents 1) free-living cadence patterns (i.e., time spent at incrementally higher cadence bands) and 2) peak cadence indicators (i.e., peak 60 min, peak 30 min, and peak 1 min) by sex, age, and body mass index.

Methods: Cadence patterns and peak cadence were derived from 2005-2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey accelerometer data representing 2610 children and adolescents (1281 boys and 1329 girls, age 6-19 yr). Data were described by sex, age group (6-11, 12-15, and 16-19 yr), and body mass index-defined weight status (normal, overweight, obese).

Results: On average, US children and adolescents spent =/~4 h · d(-1) at zero cadence during wearing time, =/~8.9 h · d(-1) between 1 and 59 steps per minute, =/~22 min · d(-1) at cadences of 60-79 steps per minute, =/~13 min at 80-99 steps per minute, =/~9 min at 100-119 steps per minute, and =/~3 min at cadences ≥ 120 steps per minute. Peak 60-min, 30-min, and 1-min cadences were 72, 85, and 118 steps per minute, respectively.

Conclusions: US children and adolescents seem to spend relatively few minutes in daily life engaged in activities that elicit step accumulation patterns indicative of normal walking speeds, let alone those associated with higher intensity activities.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Age Factors
  • Child
  • Female
  • Gait / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Monitoring, Ambulatory
  • Nutrition Surveys
  • United States
  • Walking / physiology*
  • Young Adult