Using Step Activity Monitoring to Characterize Ambulatory Activity in Community-Dwelling Older Adults

Authors

  • James T. Cavanaugh PT, PhD,

    1. From the *Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center and Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North CarolinaCyma Corporation, Mountlake Terrace, WashingtonErickson Foundation, Catonsville, Maryland.
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  • Kim L. Coleman MS,

    1. From the *Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center and Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North CarolinaCyma Corporation, Mountlake Terrace, WashingtonErickson Foundation, Catonsville, Maryland.
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  • Jean M. Gaines PhD, RN,

    1. From the *Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center and Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North CarolinaCyma Corporation, Mountlake Terrace, WashingtonErickson Foundation, Catonsville, Maryland.
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  • Linda Laing BA,

    1. From the *Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center and Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North CarolinaCyma Corporation, Mountlake Terrace, WashingtonErickson Foundation, Catonsville, Maryland.
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  • Miriam C. Morey PhD

    1. From the *Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center and Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North CarolinaCyma Corporation, Mountlake Terrace, WashingtonErickson Foundation, Catonsville, Maryland.
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Address correspondence to J. T. Cavanaugh, PT, PhD, Veterans Affairs Medical Center, GRECC (182), 508 Fulton St., Durham, NC 27705. E-mail: Jim.Cavanaugh@duke.edu

Abstract

OBJECTIVES: To explore the potential of using step activity monitoring to detect differences in ambulatory activity associated with advancing age and declining function in community-dwelling seniors.

DESIGN: Cross-sectional pilot study.

SETTING: General communities of Seattle, Washington; Catonsville, Maryland; and Durham, North Carolina.

PARTICIPANTS: Thirty healthy younger adults, 28 healthy older adults, and 12 older adults reporting functional limitations.

MEASUREMENTS: Ambulatory activity data were collected over 6 days with the StepWatch 3. Average daily values were calculated for number of steps, number of minutes of activity, number of activity bouts, variability of minute-to-minute activity, and randomness of minute-to-minute activity fluctuations.

RESULTS: Healthy older adults engaged in fewer bouts of activity (P=.03) and displayed less-variable activity (P=.02) than younger adults. Older adults reporting functional limitations not only engaged in fewer bouts of activity (P=.009) and less variable activity (P<.001) than younger adults, but also accumulated fewer total steps (P=.003) and minutes of activity (P=.008) and had less-random minute-to-minute activity fluctuations (P=.02).

CONCLUSION: Step activity monitoring data were useful for detecting differences in ambulatory activity according to age and functional limitation. Monitor-based measures reflecting patterns of ambulatory activity show promise for use in studies of physical functioning.

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