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Pedometer-Measured Physical Activity and Health Behaviors in U.S. Adults


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: October 2010 - Volume 42 - Issue 10 - p 1819-1825
doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e3181dc2e54
Basic Sciences

U.S. adults may have lower levels of ambulatory physical activity compared with adults living in other countries.

Purpose: The purpose of this study was to provide descriptive, epidemiological data on the average number of steps per day estimated to be taken by U.S. adults and to identify predictors of pedometer-measured physical activity on the basis of demographic characteristics and self-reported behavioral characteristics.

Methods: The America On the Move study was conducted in 2003. Individuals (N = 2522) aged 13 yr and older consented to fill out a survey, including 1921 adults aged 18 yr and older. Valid pedometer data were collected on 1136 adults with Accusplit AE120 pedometers. Data were weighted to reflect the general U.S. population according to several variables (age, gender, race/ethnicity, education, income, level of physical activity, and number of 5- to 17-yr-old children in the household). Differences in steps per day between subgroups were analyzed using unpaired t-tests when only two subgroups were involved or one-way ANOVA if multiple subgroups were involved.

Results: Adults reported taking an average of 5117 steps per day. Male gender, younger age, higher education level, single marital status, and lower body mass index were all positively associated with steps per day. Steps per day were positively related to other self-reported measures of physical activity and negatively related to self-reported measures on physical inactivity. Living environment (urban, suburban, or rural) and eating habits were not associated with steps per day.

Conclusions: In the current study, men and women living in the United States took fewer steps per day than those living in Switzerland, Australia, and Japan. We conclude that low levels of ambulatory physical activity are contributing to the high prevalence of adult obesity in the United States.

1University of Tennessee Obesity Research Center, Knoxville, TN; 2University of Colorado, Denver, CO; and 3The Procter and Gamble Company, Cincinnati, OH

Address for correspondence: David R. Bassett, Jr., Ph.D., The University of Tennessee, 1914 Andy Holt Ave., Knoxville, TN 37919; E-mail:

Submitted for publication December 2009.

Accepted for publication March 2010.

©2010The American College of Sports Medicine