Step Tempo

Posted to by June Patton

I just received the latest issue of the Reebok Alliance News (July 1996) and the cover story concerns researrch performed last year at Auburn University concerning step tempo.

I'll quote, because they say it so well :)

"According to those who directed the research, Human Performance Research Scientists Michele S. Olson, Ph.D. and Henry N. Williford, Ph.D. of the AUM Human Performance Laboratory, 122-128 BPM is the suggested maximum cadence speed.

"At this rate, research participants (university women of similar fitness levels and exercise performance capabilities) who performed the activity during a 10-week period, three days per week, in 50-minute sessions (30 minutes aerobics conditioning; 20 minutes warm-up and cool-down) were able to maintain poper stepping technique, experienced minimal increases in Vertical Ground Reaction Forces and achieved 5-15% increases in cardiorespiratory demand.

"The results of the research study, which was partially funded by Reebok International Ltd., were published in the March 1996 issue of Sports Medicine, and were presented at an American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) conference held May 31 in Cincinnati, Ohio."

The article goes on to say that the individuals were advanced participants, "who have mastered the skills of the activiity, and regularly maintain a high level of fitness; and experienced step aerobics instructors."

This is, of course, important, as many classes are made up of participants of varying skill levels. Peter Francis mentions three specific issues to remember when considering step tempos:

  1. People with long limbs can not execute movements as quickly as those with short limbs. Faster music may cause these people to appear clumsy, and not to be able to complete the movements within their range of motion.
  2. Data (unspecified source) indicates that injuries are more likely to occur at tempos over 128 BPM. "It's important to remain within the 118-128 BPM range to ensure proper technique, and reduce the potential for injury."
  3. The ability to increase speed is ultimately determined by each individual body.

Dr. Olson also suggested that instructors increase the speed of their music GRADUALLY up to the 128 BPM until the students can execute the movements, and she also hoped that instructors would not abuse this new, higher, guideline.

One final comment -- has anyone seen the article published in Sports Medicine? I would be interested in knowing what tempos they took to study up to, or any other additional information that may be available.

Hope this is interesting for some of you. June Patton

"Life is what happens while you are making other plans."

[Step and music speeds? 144 BPM? 156 BPM?]

Posted to by Larry

Well, folks, I bet you can hear the words coming out of my keyboard already, but the Step Reebok guidelines have remained unchanged - 118-122 BPM.

Other organizations have provided their own guidelines, but they usually recommend 120-124 BPM, or 122-126 BPM. I have never seen an organization that has recommended stepping above 128 BPM.

Reebok's 1991 studies (before the introduction of the Power Step Reebok program) demonstrated that as music tempo increased perceived exertion (how hard the exercisers felt they were working) decreased disproportionately to the energy cost, and based on RPE exercisers overestimated their work intensity.

In fact, in several of the participants, at 128 BPM range of motion began to be compromised, and actual oxygen consumption was less at 128 BPM than at 120 BPM.

The average increase for people who could maintain proper form and full range of motion was approximately 5%, which was consistent with the 50% inrcrease in intensity measured when raising stepping tempo from 80-120 BPM.

The upshot: people will *feel* like they are working harder, but actually quite often the reverse is true.

I've been looking into the issue myself lately, and perhaps I can be persuaded to post my one-rat preliminary study on the effects of stepping tempos between 122 and 160 BPM and varying bench heights (6, 8, and 10 inches) on stepping form, alignment, and technique.

Some of the highlights:


--------"It's my personal opinion that people need to be more clear about what is fact and what is in fact their personal opinion." -- me

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