Physical activity monitoring by use of accelerometer-based body-worn sensors in older adults: a systematic literature review of current knowledge and applications

Maturitas. 2012 Jan;71(1):13-9. doi: 10.1016/j.maturitas.2011.11.003. Epub 2011 Nov 30.


Objectives: To systematically review the literature on physical activity variables derived from body-worn sensors during long term monitoring in healthy and in-care older adults.

Methods: Using pre-designed inclusion and exclusion criteria, a PubMed search strategy was designed to trace relevant reports of studies. Last search date was March 8, 2011.

Study selection: Studies that included persons with mean or median age of >65 years, used accelerometer-based body-worn sensors with a monitoring length of >24h, and reported values on physical activity in the samples assessed.

Results: 1403 abstracts were revealed and 134 full-text papers included in the final review. A variety of variables derived from activity counts or recognition of performed activities were reported in healthy older adults as well as in in-care older adults. Three variables were possible to compare across studies, level of Energy Expenditure in kcal per day and activity recognition in terms of total time in walking and total activity. However, physical activity measured by these variables demonstrated large variation between studies and did not distinguish activity between healthy and in-care samples.

Conclusion: There is a rich variety in methods used for data collection and analysis as well as in reported variables. Different aspects of physical activity can be described, but the variety makes it challenging to compare across studies. There is an urgent need for developing consensus on activity monitoring protocols and which variables to report.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Actigraphy / methods*
  • Aged
  • Energy Metabolism*
  • Exercise*
  • Humans
  • Monitoring, Ambulatory / methods*
  • Motor Activity*
  • Walking