Reliability of Objectively Measured Sedentary Time and Physical Activity in Adults

PLoS One. 2015 Jul 20;10(7):e0133296. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0133296. eCollection 2015.


Background: In adults, a minimum of 3-5 days of accelerometer monitoring is usually considered appropriate to obtain reliable estimates of physical activity (PA). However, a longer period of measurement might be needed to obtain reliable estimates of sedentary behavior (SED). The aim of this study was to determine the reliability of objectively assessed SED and PA in adults.

Methods: Eighty-seven adult subjects (28 men; mean (standard deviation) age 31.3 (12.2) years; body mass index 23.7 (3.1) kg/m2) wore the GT3X+ accelerometer for 21 subsequent days, for which the reliability of different wear time criteria (8 to 12 h/day and 3 to 5 d/week) was explored. Variance partitioning along with the Spearman-Brown prophecy formula was used as the basis for determining intraclass-correlation coefficients (ICC) and the number of monitoring days needed (N) to achieve an ICC = 0.80. Week-by-week reliability was reported using ICC, Bland-Altman plots and absolute measures of agreement.

Results: Seven-10 days of monitoring was needed to reliably assess overall- (axis 1 and vector magnitude (VM) counts per minute (CPM)) and moderate-to-vigorous PA (MVPA), 3-4 days was needed for light PA (LPA), whereas the number of days needed for SED depended on whether adjustments were made for wear time (6-8 days) or not (13-15 days). The week-by-week ICC was ≥0.70 for all variables, with limits of agreement being ±267.8 cpm for CPM, ±352.3 cpm for VM CPM, ±76.8 min/day for SED, ±57.8 min/day for LPA and ±43.8 min/day for MVPA, equal to 1.0-1.6 standard deviations, when adjustment was made for wear time.

Conclusions: For most variables, more than one week of measurement was needed to achieve an ICC = 0.80. Correcting for wear time was crucial to reliably determine SED. Considerable week-by-week variability was found for all variables. Researchers need to be aware of substantial intra-individual variability in accelerometer-measurements.

MeSH terms

  • Accelerometry / standards*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sedentary Behavior*
  • Young Adult

Grant support

The authors have no support or funding to report.