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Best Practices for Using Physical Activity Monitors in Population-Based Research


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: January 2012 - Volume 44 - Issue 1S - p S68–S76
doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e3182399e5b
Original Articles

ABSTRACT The use of physical activity monitors in population-based research has increased dramatically in the past decade. In this report, we review the major purpose for using physical activity monitors in different types of population-based studies (i.e., surveillance, intervention, association studies) and discuss the strengths and weaknesses for the various behavioral outcomes derived from monitors for each study type. We also update and extend previous recommendations for use of these instruments in large-scale studies, particularly with respect to selecting monitor systems in the context of technological advances that have occurred in recent years. The current state of the science with respect to optimal measurement schedules for use of physical activity monitors is also discussed. A checklist and flowchart are provided so that investigators have more guidance when reporting key elements of monitor use in their studies.

1Nutritional Epidemiology Branch, Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, National Cancer Institute, Rockville, MD; 2Division of Physiotherapy, Department of Neurobiology, Care Sciences and Society, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, SWEDEN; 3Sutton, VT; and 4Risk Factor Monitoring and Methods Branch, Applied Research Program, Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences, National Cancer Institute, Rockville, MD

Address for correspondence: Charles E. Matthews, Ph.D., Nutritional Epidemiology Branch, Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, National Cancer Institute, 6120 Executive Blvd., EPS 3028, Rockville, MD 20892-7344; E-mail:

©2012The American College of Sports Medicine