Actigraphy as a measure of physical activity for wheelchair users with spinal cord injury

Nurs Res. 2004 Mar-Apr;53(2):136-43. doi: 10.1097/00006199-200403000-00010.


Background: Research has indicated that actigraphy is valid and reliable for measuring low levels of physical activity among ambulatory individuals, and that it may be a valid indicator of energy expenditure for wheelchair users in laboratory conditions, but there are no reports of its evaluation in free-living conditions.

Objective: To assess the suitability and validity of actigraphy as a measure of free-living physical activity for wheelchair users with spinal cord injury.

Methods: In a methodologic descriptive correlational study, measures of physical activity by an actigraph and a self-report physical activity record were obtained for six individuals in laboratory conditions and 22 individuals in free-living conditions during a 4-day period. At the completion of the home monitoring trial, all the participants completed a questionnaire about their experience wearing the monitor and maintaining the record.

Results: Mean activity counts by actigraphy during active tasks were significantly different from the counts during inactive tasks (p =.003). During home monitoring, the participants wore the monitor, on the average, 95% of the prescribed wearing time, rated it as very comfortable, and were willing to wear it again. Pearson correlation coefficients of activity counts with self-reported activity intensity varied from.30 to.77 (p <.01) for individual participants. The mean correlation across the sample was.60 (p <.01). Activity counts varied with reported activity, indicating concurrence between the two activity measurement methods.

Conclusions: Actigraphy is suitable as a measurement of activity for people with spinal cord injury. This initial investigation suggests that it has concurrent validity with a self-report measure of activity intensity and frequency, as evidenced in this sample of wheelchair users in free-living conditions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Monitoring, Ambulatory / instrumentation
  • Motor Activity*
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / classification*
  • Wheelchairs*