Background: Objective methods can improve accuracy of physical activity measurement in field studies but uncertainties remain about their use.
Methods: Children age 11 years from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC), were asked to wear a uni-axial accelerometer (MTI Actigraph) for 7 days.
Results: Of 7159 children who attended for assessment, 5595 (78%) provided valid measures. The reliability coefficient for 3 days of recording was .7 and the power to detect a difference of 0.07 SDs (P<or=.05) was > 90%. Measures tended to be higher on the first day of recording (17 counts/min; 95% CI, 10-24) and if children wore the monitor for fewer days, but these differences were small. The children who provided valid measures of activity were different from those who did not, but the differences were modest.
Conclusion: Objective measures of physical activity can be incorporated into large longitudinal studies of children.