Validity of four motion sensors in measuring moderate intensity physical activity

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2000 Sep;32(9 Suppl):S471-80. doi: 10.1097/00005768-200009001-00006.


Purpose: This study tested the validity of four motion sensors for measuring energy expenditure (EE) during moderate intensity physical activities in field and laboratory settings. We also evaluated the accuracy of the EE values for selected moderate activities listed in the 1993 Compendium of Physical Activities.

Methods: A total of 81 participants (age 19-74 yr) completed selected tasks from six general categories: yardwork, housework, occupation, family care, conditioning, and recreation. Twelve individuals performed each of the 28 activities examined. During each activity, EE was measured using a portable metabolic measurement system. Participants also wore three accelerometers (Computer Science and Applications [CSA], Inc. model 7164; Caltrac; and Kenz Select 2) and the Yamax SW-701 electronic pedometer. For the CSA device, three previously developed regression equations were used to convert accelerometer scores to EE.

Results: The mean error scores (indirect calorimetry minus device) across all activities were: CSA1, 0.97 MET; CSA2, 0.47 MET, CSA3, 0.05 MET; Caltrac, 0.83 MET; Kenz, 0.96 MET; and Yamax, 1.12 MET. The correlation coefficients between indirect calorimetry and motion sensors ranged from r = 0.33 to r = 0.62. The energy cost for power mowing and sweeping/mopping was higher than that listed in the 1993 Compendium (P < 0.05), and the cost for several household and recreational activities was lower (P < 0.05).

Conclusion: Motion sensors tended to overpredict EE during walking. However, they underpredicted the energy cost of many other activities because of an inability to detect arm movements and external work. These findings illustrate some of the limitations of using motion sensors to predict EE in field settings.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living*
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Energy Metabolism*
  • Exercise Test / methods
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Oxygen Consumption
  • Recreation
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Walking