4364.0.55.004 - Australian Health Survey: Physical Activity, 2011-12  
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Contents >> Pedometer Steps


The majority of physical activity data collected in the Australian Health Survey was collected via self-report methods specifying the length of time undertaken and level of intensity. To complement this, pedometer data was collected as an objective measure to quantify the volume of physical activity undertaken. Although the data does not indicate a level of intensity (such as whether the activity level is low, moderate or high) it can provide an insight into general levels of incidental and intended physical activity.

    Pedometer data: sources, definitions and interpretation

    In the 2011-12 National Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey (NNPAS), respondents aged 5 years and over were asked to participate in a Pedometer data collection component. Almost half (49%) of these respondents agreed and provided sufficient data to meet a four day (including one week day and one weekend day) reporting threshold requirement.

    As there are no current standard national recommendations for target steps per day, results were measured against thresholds for young people aged 5–17 years and adults found in other published sources.

    For adults, 10,000 steps is used by researchers worldwide as a reasonable estimate of daily activity by healthy adults [1].

    For young people aged 5–17, it is recognised that 10,000 steps per day is likely to be too low. The US President’s Challenge Physical Activity and Fitness Awards Program have used two different target thresholds for boys and girls (13,000 and 11,000 respectively) [1]. More recent analysis of step counts collected in the Canadian Health Measures Survey suggest a single minimal daily target of 12,000 steps per day for both boys and girls best estimates a physical activity target of 60 minutes per day [2].

    Step Thresholds

    Adults (aged 18 years and over)
    MaleAt least 10,000 steps
    FemaleAt least 10,000 steps
    Young people (aged 5-17 years)
    Threshold 1
    MaleAt least 13,000 steps
    FemaleAt least 11,000 steps
    Threshold 1 (variation)
    MaleAt least 12,000 steps
    FemaleAt least 12,000 steps

    Data interpretation

    There are certain physical activities where a pedometer may not be worn (such as swimming, cycling or contact sports). Removal of the pedometer for these activities could therefore result in an underestimate of the steps taken. Respondents were asked to record the reason and duration of pedometer removal during the day. Of the child pedometer days recorded, 8% had noted the removal for sport or swimming, while for adults, just 3% of pedometer records specified removal for exercise or swimming. Step counts have not been imputed for time removed due to the limited information obtained on pedometer removal.

    For more details see the Australian Health Survey: Users' Guide.


In 2011-12, the children and young people who participated in the pedometer study, recorded an average of 9,140 steps per day. Males recorded more steps than females with one in four males (25%) achieving the threshold of 12,000 steps per day (on average) compared with only 8% of females. The difference between males and females was more marked in the younger age groups.

Graph Image for Children aged 5-17 years - Proportion met average 12,000 steps per day, 2011-12

See Table 25: Average pedometer steps per day, Children aged 5–17 years and Table 26: Average pedometer steps per day type by selected characteristics, Children aged 5–17 years.


Adults took less steps than children with an average of 7,400 steps per day. Less than one in five adults (19%) recorded 10,000 per day on average, with 35–44 year olds being most likely (25%) to reach the threshold. See Table 23: Average pedometer steps per day, Persons aged 18 years and over and Table 24: Average pedometer steps per day type by selected characteristics, Persons aged 18 years and over.

Graph Image for Persons 18 years and over - Proportion met average of 10,000 steps per day 2011-12
1 Tudor-Locke C, Bassett DR Jr. 2004. ‘How many steps/day are enough? Preliminary pedometer indices for public health’. Sports Medicine, 34(1), 1-8
2 Colley, RC, Janssen, I & Tremblay, MS 2012. ‘Daily step target to measure adherence to physical activity guidelines in children’, Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 44(5), 977

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