Modeling Physical Activity Outcomes from Wearable Monitors


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise:
doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e3182399dcc
Original Articles

ABSTRACT: Although the measurement of physical activity with wearable monitors may be considered objective, consensus guidelines for collecting and processing these objective data are lacking. This article presents an algorithm embodying best practice recommendations for collecting, processing, and reporting physical activity data routinely collected with accelerometry-based activity monitors. This algorithm is proposed as a linear series of seven steps within three successive phases. The Precollection Phase includes two steps. Step 1 defines the population of interest, the type and intensity of physical activity behaviors to be targeted, and the preferred outcome variables, and identifies the epoch duration. In Step 2, the activity monitor is selected, and decisions about how long and where on the body the monitor is to be worn are made. The Data Collection Phase, Step 3, consists of collecting and processing activity monitor data and is dependent on decisions made previously. The Postcollection Phase consists of four steps. Step 4 involves quality and quantity control checks of the activity monitor data. In Step 5, the raw data are transformed into physiologically meaningful units using a calibration algorithm. Step 6 involves summarizing these data according to the target behavior. In Step 7, physical activity outcome variables based on time, energy expenditure, or movement type are generated. Best practice recommendations include the full disclosure of each step within the algorithm when reporting monitor-derived physical activity outcome variables in the research literature. As such, those reading and publishing within the research literature, as well as future users, will have the best chance for understanding the interactions between study methodology and activity monitor selection, as well as the best possibility for relating their own monitor-derived physical activity outcome variables to the research literature.

Author Information

1Department of Health and Human Development, Movement Science/Human Performance Lab, Montana State University, Bozeman, MT; 2Medical Research Council Epidemiology Unit, Institute of Metabolic Science, Cambridge, UNITED KINGDOM; and 3GE Global Research Center, Niskayuna, NY

Address for correspondence: Daniel P. Heil, Ph.D., Department of Health and Human Development, Movement Science/Human Performance Lab, H&PE Complex, Room 121, Montana State University, Bozeman, MT 59717-3360; E-mail:

©2012The American College of Sports Medicine