Physical Activity Assessment

How we use accelerometry to assess physical activity

Many health organizations recognize the importance of an active lifestyle to promote health and prevent chronic disease. One essential tool we utilize to assess physical activity levels in the free-living environment is accelerometry. Accelerometers are small devices that measure acceleration. These devices can be worn in multiple locations and are a minimal burden for participants in research studies. Based on someone's acceleration pattern, we can derive how physically active or sedentary they are with a number of metrics (e.g. steps, time in moderate to vigorous activity, time spent sitting).

Frequently Used Physical Activity Monitors

There are many physical activity monitors on the market to choose from. We primarily utilize research grade accelerometers including the activPAL (PALtechnologies) and the ActiGraph (ActiGraph, LLC) but also have experience with other activity monitors (e.g. footwear based and heat flux). There are advantages and disavantages to using any wearable monitors. Making a decision on which device to use ultimately depends on your study population and what you are trying to measure. For example, the best monitor to assess time spent stepping in young college students is not the same as a very inactive clinical population. We have over 20 years of experience in assessing physical activity and can help guide your decisions. If you are interested in a consultation, contact Dr. Melanson.