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Comparison of Accelerometer Cut Points for Predicting Activity Intensity in Youth


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: July 2011 - Volume 43 - Issue 7 - p 1360-1368
doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e318206476e
SPECIAL COMMUNICATIONS: Methodological Advances

The absence of comparative validity studies has prevented researchers from reaching consensus regarding the application of intensity-related accelerometer cut points for children and adolescents.

Purpose: This study aimed to evaluate the classification accuracy of five sets of independently developed ActiGraph cut points using energy expenditure, measured by indirect calorimetry, as a criterion reference standard.

Methods: A total of 206 participants between the ages of 5 and 15 yr completed 12 standardized activity trials. Trials consisted of sedentary activities (lying down, writing, computer game), lifestyle activities (sweeping, laundry, throw and catch, aerobics, basketball), and ambulatory activities (comfortable walk, brisk walk, brisk treadmill walk, running). During each trial, participants wore an ActiGraph GT1M, and V˙O2 was measured breath-by-breath using the Oxycon Mobile portable metabolic system. Physical activity intensity was estimated using five independently developed cut points: Freedson/Trost (FT), Puyau (PU), Treuth (TR), Mattocks (MT), and Evenson (EV). Classification accuracy was evaluated via weighted κ statistics and area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (ROC-AUC).

Results: Across all four intensity levels, the EV (κ = 0.68) and FT (κ = 0.66) cut points exhibited significantly better agreement than TR (κ = 0.62), MT (κ = 0.54), and PU (κ = 0.36). The EV and FT cut points exhibited significantly better classification accuracy for moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity (ROC-AUC = 0.90) than TR, PU, or MT cut points (ROC-AUC = 0.77-0.85). Only the EV cut points provided acceptable classification accuracy for all four levels of physical activity intensity and performed well among children of all ages. The widely applied sedentary cut point of 100 counts per minute exhibited excellent classification accuracy (ROC-AUC = 0.90).

Conclusions: On the basis of these findings, we recommend that researchers use the EV ActiGraph cut points to estimate time spent in sedentary, light-, moderate-, and vigorous-intensity activity in children and adolescents.

1Department of Nutrition and Exercise Sciences, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR; and 2Department of Kinesiology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI

Address for correspondence: Stewart G. Trost, Ph.D., Department of Nutrition and Exercise Sciences, 203D Women's Bldg., Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97331; E-mail:

Submitted for publication July 2010.

Accepted for publication November 2010.

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© 2011 American College of Sports Medicine