Abstract The pattern of colonic motor activity in healthy humans has not been fully elucidated to date. The aim of this study was to evaluate colorectal motor activity employing 24-h ambulant pancolonic manometry. Ten healthy volunteers (6F, 4M), aged 19–31 years were studied. Motor activity was measured using two custom-made silicone coated catheters, each with five solid-state pressure transducers. No bowel preparation or sedation was used. The study period was 24 h. A total of 232 h of recording was obtained. Sixty-three high amplitude propagated contractions were observed, median six per 24-h period. Low-amplitude colonic contractile activity showed regional and diurnal variations. Frequency of contraction was highest in the right colon [median 5.26 cpm (cycles per minute)], and transverse colon and splenic flexure (median 5.15 cpm). The interval between colonic motor complexes was shortest in the transverse colon and splenic flexure. This study introduces a new technique for the evaluation of colorectal motor activity. Subjects were studied in an ambulant setting in their own environment ensuring that this method of study is as physiological as possible. This study demonstrates that colonic motor activity has two main components: high amplitude propagated contractions and low amplitude colonic contractile activity.