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Walking Behavior Laboratory



The goal of this laboratory is to study the measurement of and motivation for walking behaviors in relation to important health outcomes.


The  science supporting the health benefits of a physically active lifestyle  across the life span is strong. Of all types of physical activity  behaviors, ambulatory activity (most obviously walking, but also any lower  limb locomotion) is probably the single most important to measure and  promote. Walking for exercise is consistently the most frequently reported  leisure-time physical activity. In addition, walking is the foremost form  of human-powered personal transportation, a part of many nonautomated  chores, and a functional aspect of almost all types of personal mobility. 

 The  Walking Behavior Laboratory has established itself as a world leader in  the objective monitoring of walking behaviors using accelerometers and  pedometers to capture steps per day. For example, we have recently led the  writing of three international consensus articles focused on how many  steps per day are enough? in children/adolescents, adults, and older  adults/special populations. With the growing awareness of the detrimental effects  of an overly sedentary lifestyle, we are expanding our research to also  answer how many steps per day are too few? in relation to several  important health outcomes. 

 Steps  per day is a measurement representing physical activity volume, and it has  been criticized for lacking a description of intensity of movement.  Physical activity guidelines worldwide include an element of intensity in  their recommendations. In the past year, we have begun to focus on the  assessment and analysis of patterns of minute-by-minute cadence (steps per  minute), alone and together with steps per day, as a means of getting at intensity.  Cadence increases with speed of walking and intensity, and so the study of  cadence under free-living conditions represents a simple  pattern-recognition strategy. Puttering can be discriminated from walking,  and running can be identified with reasonable ease in data sets based on  objectively monitored physical activity. In this next year, we will be  investigating the relationship between time spent at different cadence  levels and important health outcomes, including body composition,  diabetes, and overall cardiometabolic health. 

 To  achieve the labs mission, we employ a broad range of quantitative and  qualitative methods, tap into existing data sets, and seek funding to  support original research studies. We have adopted measurement  technologies including an electronic walkway that allows us to  instantaneously capture research participants gait speed, stride lengths,  and cadence. We are conducting studies to elucidate the relationship  between different cadences and energy expenditure in adults, older adults,  and children in order to better estimate energy expenditure of walking in  free-living conditions. We have recently received an American Heart  Association award to support our WALKMORE study of the relative impacts  of two pedometer-based walking interventions (one focused on accumulating  more steps per day and the other on steps per day + cadence) in  overweight/obese, postmenopausal women with elevated blood pressure.  WALKMORE will inform public health messages related to improving blood  pressure in a population at increased risk of cardiovascular disease. 

 Research  in this laboratory is supported by grants from the American Heart  Association, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the National  Institutes of Health.