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Influence of Speed and Step Frequency during Walking and Running on Motion Sensor Output


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: April 2007 - Volume 39 - Issue 4 - p 716-727
doi: 10.1249/mss.0b013e318031126c
APPLIED SCIENCES: Physical Fitness and Performance

Purpose: Studies have reported strong linear relationships between accelerometer output and walking/running speeds up to 10 km·h−1. However, ActiGraph uniaxial accelerometer counts plateau at higher speeds. The aim of this study was to determine the relationships of triaxial accelerometry, uniaxial accelerometry, and pedometry with speed and step frequency (SF) across a range of walking and running speeds.

Methods: Nine male runners wore two ActiGraph uniaxial accelerometers, two RT3 triaxial accelerometers (all set at a 1-s epoch), and two Yamax pedometers. Each participant walked for 60 s at 4 and 6 km·h−1, ran for 60 s at 10, 12, 14, 16, and 18 km·h−1, and ran for 30 s at 20, 22, 24, and 26 km·h−1. Step frequency was recorded by a visual count.

Results: ActiGraph counts peaked at 10 km·h−1 (2.5-3.0 Hz SF) and declined thereafter (r = 0.02, P > 0.05). After correction for frequency-dependent filtering, output plateaued at 10 km·h−1 but did not decline (r = 0.77, P < 0.05). Similarly, RT3 vertical counts plateaued at speeds > 10 km·h−1 (r = 0.86, P < 0.01). RT3 vector magnitude and anteroposterior and mediolateral counts maintained a linear relationship with speed (r > 0.96, P < 0.001). Step frequency assessed by pedometry compared well with actual step frequency up to 20 km·h−1 (approximately 3.5 Hz) but then underestimated actual steps (Yamax r = 0.97; ActiGraph pedometer r = 0.88, both P < 0.001).

Conclusion: Increasing underestimation of activity by the ActiGraph as speed increases is related to frequency-dependent filtering and assessment of acceleration in the vertical plane only. RT3 vector magnitude was strongly related to speed, reflecting the predominance of horizontal acceleration at higher speeds. These results indicate that high-intensity activity is underestimated by the ActiGraph, even after correction for frequency-dependent filtering, but not by the RT3. Pedometer output is highly correlated with step frequency.

School of Sport and Health Sciences, University of Exeter, UNITED KINGDOM

Address for correspondence: Ann V. Rowlands, Ph.D., School of Sport and Health Sciences, University of Exeter, St. Luke's Campus, Heavitree Road, Exeter EX1 2LU, England, UK; E-mail:

Submitted for publication June 2006.

Accepted for publication December 2006.

©2007The American College of Sports Medicine