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Objective - Accelerometer

441. Step Count Targets Corresponding to New Physical Activity Guidelines for the Early Years

Research Article
Leigh Gabel, Nicole A. Proudfoot, Joyce Obeid, Maureen J. MacDonald, Steven R. Bray, John Cairney, and Brian W. Timmons
October 2012

Commentary: Bethany Walker, National Heart Foundation

Physical activity guidelines have been established for children aged 3-5 years with recommendations suggesting at least 180 minutes of physical activity throughout the day with at least 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) as they approach 5 years of age. However step count targets in relation to these guidelines are yet to be determined. This paper provides a step count target for those aged 3-4 and 5 years of age, allowing researchers and practitioners to more accurately monitor physical activity levels amongst young children.

Participants (n=133) wore accelerometers for seven consecutive days with activity and step counts recorded in bouts of 3 seconds. A day was deemed valid if the accelerometer was worn for ≥ 10 hours. Total physical activity was specified as ≥8 counts/3 seconds and MVPA as ≥84 counts/3 seconds.

Three different step thresholds of 6000, 6500, and 7000 steps were recorded with 65%, 51% and 45% of participants meeting the daily step counts respectively. The daily step count benchmark for 180 min of any physical activity was 6013 ± 88 and including 60 min of MVPA was 6191 ± 103. Therefore the smallest disparity between days meeting physical activity guidelines and step count targets was satisfied with a 6000 step count. It is important to note that a more accurate recommendation for the 180 minutes of physical activity inclusive of 60 minutes of MVPA would be higher than a 6000 step count but for clinical and practical research, a single benchmark figure was concluded for reasons of practicality.

The proposed step count target of 6000 steps per day approximates whether children aged 3-5 years are meeting the recommended guidelines of 180 minutes of physical activity at any intensity and 180 minutes at any intensity including 60 minutes of MVPA. These results provide important insight and guidelines for future healthy lifestyle interventions.

Source: Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise,  2012, Published ahead of print. Access to this article may depend on your institutional right. Click here to view the full article.