High levels of objectively measured physical activity across adolescence and adulthood among the Pokot pastoralists of Kenya

M. Katherine Sayre, Ivy L. Pike, David A. Raichlen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Objectives: Levels of physical activity (PA) across the lifespan are important predictors of physical fitness, impacting individual health, and longevity. Individuals living in industrialized societies are often characterized as more sedentary than those who live in small-scale societies, and this inactivity is generally linked with increased incidence of chronic disease, especially during aging. However, less empirical data exist regarding levels and patterns of PA across the lifespan among small-scale societies compared with industrialized societies. The goal of this study was to characterize PA among the Pokot pastoralists of rural northern Kenya. Methods: PA was measured in 40 participants ranging in age from 14 to 78 years using ActiGraph wrist-worn accelerometers. Wear time spanned 24–77 hours, with a modal wear time of 50 hours. Results: We show that the Pokot spend large amounts of time in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA), achieving an average of 99.14 ± 7.25 minutes per day in MVPA. Males and younger participants tended to spend more time in MVPA. However, older participants were still physically active and engaged in over 50 minutes per day of MVPA. Conclusions: The Pokot are highly physically active from adolescence through adulthood. Other pastoralist groups may display a similar pattern of PA. During human evolution, lifespans increased, and lifestyles were characterized by a relatively high level of physical activity. The human aging process may be adapted for activity throughout life, and lifelong activity may have played an important role in increases in human longevity during evolution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere23205
JournalAmerican Journal of Human Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Anthropology
  • Genetics


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