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A Review of Accelerometer-based Activity Monitoring in Cancer Survivorship Research


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: September 2018 - Volume 50 - Issue 9 - p 1790–1801
doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000001644

Background In the cancer survivorship context, physical activity and sedentary behavior have been measured using different methods.

Purpose To conduct a narrative review of published research in cancer survivor populations to summarize the quality and identify gaps in reporting on accelerometer data collection, data processing, and outcome measures in cancer survivors.

Methods An initial PubMed® search of articles published in English was conducted in January 2017, and a final search was conducted in May 2017. Variables extracted included study characteristics, methods for accelerometry data collection (e.g., device used), data processing (e.g., cut points used), and data reporting (e.g., time spent in different activity intensities).

Results A total of 46 articles were eligible for inclusion in the review. The majority of studies (34 of 46) targeted a single cancer group and 18 of these 34 studies were in survivors of breast cancer. Half (54%) of the studies used an ActiGraph® accelerometer. Methods of accelerometer data processing varied across studies. Definitions of non–wear time, vectors used during processing, and filters applied during processing were reported by 51%, 60%, and 8% of studies, respectively. Most studies reported moderate and vigorous physical activity (78%), 50% reported sedentary time, and 43% reported light-intensity activity. Cut points to categorize these activities varied between studies.

Conclusions This narrative review highlights inconsistency in the methods used to collect, process, and report accelerometry data across cancer survivor studies. Accelerometry has potential to add detailed knowledge of the levels and patterns of physical activities and sedentary behaviors across the cancer spectrum. Recommendations are made to improve data processing and reporting methods to maximize the scientific validity of future accelerometer research in this field.

1Exercise Medicine Research Institute, Edith Cowan University, Perth, AUSTRALIA;

2School of Medical and Health Sciences, Edith Cowan University, Perth, AUSTRALIA;

3School of Physiotherapy and Exercise Science, Curtin University, Perth, AUSTRALIA;

4Institute for Respiratory Health, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, Perth, AUSTRALIA;

5School of Public Health, Curtin University, Perth, AUSTRALIA;

6Centre for Population Health Research, School of Health Sciences, University of South Australia, Adelaide, AUSTRALIA;

7School of Occupational Therapy, Social Work & Speech Pathology, Curtin University, Perth, AUSTRALIA;

8Exercise Laboratory, School of Physiology, University of Witwatersrand, SOUTH AFRICA;

9Cancer Epidemiology and Intelligence Division, Cancer Council Victoria, Melbourne, AUSTRALIA;

10Centre for Epidemiology and Biostatistics, School of Population and Global Health, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, AUSTRALIA;

11Physical Activity Laboratory, Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute, Melbourne, AUSTRALIA; and

12Faculty of Health Disciplines, Athabasca University, Athabasca, CANADA

Address for correspondence: Jeff Vallance, Ph.D., Faculty of Health Disciplines, Athabasca University, 1 University Drive, Athabasca, AB, Canada T9S-3A3; E-mail:

Submitted for publication December 2017.

Accepted for publication April 2018.

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© 2018 American College of Sports Medicine