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ActiGraph and Actical Physical Activity Monitors: A Peek under the Hood


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: January 2012 - Volume 44 - Issue 1S - p S86–S89
doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e3182399f5e

ABSTRACT Since the 1980s, accelerometer-based activity monitors have been used by researchers to quantify physical activity. The technology of these monitors has continuously evolved. For example, changes have been made to monitor hardware (type of sensor (e.g., piezoelectric, piezoresistive, capacitive)) and output format (counts vs raw signal). Commonly used activity monitors belong to the ActiGraph and the Actical families. This article presents information on several electromechanical aspects of these commonly used activity monitors. The majority of the article focuses on the evolution of the ActiGraph activity monitor by describing the differences among the 7164, the GT1M, and the GT3X models. This is followed by brief descriptions of the influences of device firmware and monitor calibration status. We also describe the Actical, but the discussion is short because this device has not undergone any major changes since it was first introduced. This article may help researchers gain a better understanding of the functioning of activity monitors. For example, a common misconception among physical activity researchers is that the ActiGraph GT1M and GT3X are piezoelectric sensor-based monitors. Thus, this information may also help researchers to describe these monitors more accurately in scientific publications.

Department of Kinesiology, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA

Address for correspondence: Dinesh John, Ph.D., Department of Kinesiology, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, 30 Eastman Lane, 162 Totman Bldg., Amherst, MA 01003; E-mail:

©2012The American College of Sports Medicine