Waist—What? Can a single sensor positioned at the waist detect parameters of gait at a speed and distance reflective of older adults’ activity?

Grainne Vavasour*, Oonagh M. Giggins, Matthew W. Flood, Julie Doyle, Emer Doheny, Daniel Kelly

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


One of the problems facing an ageing population is functional decline associated with reduced levels of physical activity (PA). Traditionally researcher or clinician input is necessary to capture parameters of gait or PA. Enabling older adults to monitor their activity independently could raise their awareness of their activitiy levels, promote self-care and potentially mitigate the risks associated with ageing. The ankle is accepted as the optimum position for sensor placement to capture parameters of gait however, the waist is proposed as a more accessible body-location for older adults. This study aimed to compare step-count measurements obtained from a single inertial sensor positioned at the ankle and at the waist to that of a criterion measure of step-count, and to compare gait parameters obtained from the sensors positioned at the two different body-locations. Step-count from the waist-mounted inertial sensor was compared with that from the ankle-mounted sensor, and with a criterion measure of direct observation in healthy young and healthy older adults during a three-minute treadmill walk test. Parameters of gait obtained from the sensors at both body-locations were also compared. Results indicated there was a strong positive correlation between step-count measured by both the ankle and waist sensors and the criterion measure, and between ankle and waist sensor step-count, mean step time and mean stride time (r = .802–1.0). There was a moderate correlation between the step time variability measures at the waist and ankle (r = .405). This study demonstrates that a single sensor positioned at the waist is an appropriate method for the capture of important measures of gait and physical activity among older adults.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0286707
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 8 Jun 2023


  • Gait
  • Walking
  • Ankle
  • Ankle Joint


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