Purpose: The purpose of this study was to establish the minimal number of days of monitoring required for accelerometers to assess usual physical activity in children.
Methods: A total of 381 students (189 M, 192 F) wore a CSA 7164 uniaxial accelerometer for seven consecutive days. To examine age-related trends students were grouped as follows: Group I: grades 1-3 (N = 92); Group II: grades 4-6 (N = 98); Group III: grades 7-9 (N = 97); Group IV: grades 10-12 (N = 94). Average daily time spent in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) was calculated from minute-by-minute activity counts using the regression equation developed by Freedson et al. (1997).
Results: Compared with adolescents in grades 7 to 12, children in grades 1 to 6 exhibited less day-to-day variability in MVPA behavior. Spearman-Brown analyses indicated that between 4 and 5 d of monitoring would be necessary to a achieve a reliability of 0.80 in children, and between 8 and 9 d of monitoring would be necessary to achieve a reliability of 0.80 in adolescents. Within all grade levels, the 7-d monitoring protocol produced acceptable estimates of daily participation in MVPA (R = 0.76 (0.71-0.81) to 0.87 (0.84-0.90)). Compared with weekdays, children exhibited significantly higher levels of MVPA on weekends, whereas adolescents exhibited significantly lower levels of MVPA on weekends. Principal components analysis revealed two distinct time components for MVPA during the day for children (early morning, rest of the day), and three distinct time components for MVPA during the day for adolescents (morning, afternoon, early evening).
Conclusions: These results indicate that a 7-d monitoring protocol provides reliable estimates of usual physical activity behavior in children and adolescents and accounts for potentially important differences in weekend versus weekday activity behavior as well as differences in activity patterns within a given day.