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UW-Madison’s Department of Kinesiology is hosting its annual Safrit Lecture on Thursday, April 12, and this year’s presentation will be delivered by the University of Tennessee’s David Bassett, Jr.

Bassett, a professor and chair of the Department of Kinesiology, Recreation and Sport Studies, will be examining “The Science of Step Counting” in his talk, which begins at 4 p.m. in room 1140 of the UW Natatorium.

Bassett is an alumnus of the Department of Kinesiology, having completed his Ph.D. in exercise physiology in 1988. His primary research area is the measurement of physical activity and energy expenditure in humans. He and his colleagues study the validity and reliability of pedometers, activity monitors and fitness trackers, with a particular focus on standardizing daily step counts.

Steps are vital to good health and for thousands of years, people have used step counting to measure walking distances. Since 2000, the use of step counting to promote health has taken off, as wearable step counters have improved in accuracy and reliability.

Bassett and his colleagues have collected data on groups ranging from school children to sedentary, middle-aged adults to Amish farmers. They are exploring the relationships of physical activity to body weight, blood pressure, blood lipids, and other cardiovascular risk factors.

A number of their studies have shown the benefits of walking for weight control, blood pressure and glucose tolerance. Today, wrist worn activity trackers are being used in over 200 clinical trials and “steps per day” might one day be considered a vital sign, along with body temperature, blood pressure, pulse and breathing rate.

The Safrit Lecture is named in honor of Margaret Jo Safrit, a professor emeritus with the Department of Kinesiology. Safrit  became a faculty member with the department in 1970 and served for 21 years, including as department chair. A specialist in measurement and evaluation, Safrit was a member of the task force that developed the first health-related physical fitness test in the 1970s. She went on to become UW-Madison’s first Henry Bascom Professor of Kinesiology. She retired from American University, where she served as professor and chair of the Department of Health and Fitness.