Step Guidelines and MVPA Targets Using Pedometers

A study funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was designed to translate ACSM/CDC public health guidelines for 30 minutes of daily moderate-intensity physical activity into steps. Researchers at San Diego State University and Arizona State University utilized commercial pedometers on a community sample of adults. Their results support an approximate 100 step/minute recommendation for minimally moderate intensity. To meet ACSM/CDC recommendations, this equates to 3,000 steps in 30 minutes, or three daily bouts of 1,000 steps in 10 minutes.

While pedometers are useful tools to measure step counts, researchers noted pedometer-derived steps should be used with caution for gauging moderate intensity walking. Step counts associated with moderate intensity walking should be individualized based on stride length and level of fitness. ACSM defines moderate intensity walking as "brisk" walking, or "walking with purpose." Walkers should be able to talk comfortably at a moderate-intensity level, but still feel exertion. Other definitions have included a pace at which you break a sweat and/or have a slight increase in your heart rate.

"Walking is one of the easiest forms of physical activity, and one that most people can do to meet recommendations for daily exercise," said Simon J. Marshall, Ph.D., lead author of the study. "Most people have an instinct about the length of time or the distance they walk. A pedometer can help count steps, but when you also try to walk at least 1000 steps in 10 minutes on a regular basis, you may gain significant health benefits.

MVPA Step Count Targets
100 Steps each minute
1000 Steps in 10 minutes
3000 Steps in 30 minutes

Description of Moderate to Vigorous Physical Activity
"brisking walking"
"walking with a purpose"

Physical indications of MVPA
be able to talk comfortably at a moderate-intensity level
a pace at which you break a sweat
slight increase in your heart rate

The pedometer-derived step count study was conducted with adults.

It should be noted that pedometers are an inexpensive tool for gaging students physical activity levels as well. "The devices can be particularly motivating for children. The kids can get very competitive to see who gets the most steps..." - iVillage Health

To find out more about the use of pedometers with children visit the Peaceful Playgrounds Website and download their "Don't Sit, Get Fit" Pedometer Powerpoint Presentation. It includes daily step targets for students as well as, step targets for a 30 minutes recess or physical education period.