Research Study Abstract

Walking as a Contributor to Physical Activity in Healthy Older Adults: 2 Week Longitudinal Study Using Accelerometry and the Doubly Labeled Water Method

  • Published on Jul 6, 2016

Background: Physical activity is recommended to promote healthy aging. Defining the importance of activities such as walking in achieving higher levels of physical activity might provide indications for interventions.

Objective: To describe the importance of walking in achieving higher levels of physical activity in older adults.

Methods: The study included 42 healthy subjects aged between 51 and 84 years (mean body mass index 25.6 kg/m2 [SD 2.6]). Physical activity, walking, and nonwalking activity were monitored with an accelerometer for 2 weeks. Physical activity was quantified by accelerometer-derived activity counts. An algorithm based on template matching and signal power was developed to classify activity counts into nonwalking counts, short walk counts, and long walk counts. Additionally, in a subgroup of 31 subjects energy expenditure was measured using doubly labeled water to derive physical activity level (PAL).

Results: Subjects had a mean PAL of 1.84 (SD 0.19, range 1.43-2.36). About 20% of the activity time (21% [SD 8]) was spent walking, which accounted for about 40% of the total counts (43% [SD 11]). Short bouts composed 83% (SD 9) of walking time, providing 81% (SD 11) of walking counts. A stepwise regression model to predict PAL included nonwalking counts and short walk counts, explaining 58% of the variance of PAL (standard error of the estimate=0.12). Walking activities produced more counts per minute than nonwalking activities (P<.001). Long walks produced more counts per minute than short walks (P=.001). Nonwalking counts were independent of walking counts (r=−.05, P=.38).

Conclusions: Walking activities are a major contributor to physical activity in older adults. Walking activities occur at higher intensities than nonwalking activities, which might prevent individuals from engaging in more walking activity. Finally, subjects who engage in more walking activities do not tend to compensate by limiting nonwalking activities.


  • Giulio Valenti, MS Eng. 1
  • Alberto G Bonomi, PhD. 2
  • Klaas R Westerterp, PhD. 3


  • 1

    Department of Human Biology, Maastricht University, Maastricht, 6200 MD, Netherlands

  • 2

    Personal Health Solutions, Philips Research Laboratories, Eindhoven, Netherlands

  • 3

    Department of Human Biology, Maastricht University, Maastricht, Netherlands


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