Measuring Physical Activity with Hip Accelerometry among U.S. Older Adults: How Many Days Are Enough?

PLoS One. 2017 Jan 12;12(1):e0170082. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0170082. eCollection 2017.


Introduction: Accelerometers are increasingly used in research. Four to 7 days of monitoring is preferred to estimate average activity but may be burdensome for older adults. We aimed to investigate: 1) 7-day accelerometry protocol adherence, 2) demographic predictors of adherence, 3) day of the week effect, and 4) average activity calculated from 7 versus fewer days among older adults.

Methods: We used the 2003-2006 older adult hip accelerometry data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) sample. We determined proportions with 1-7 valid (10-20 hours) wear days and identified wear day correlates using ordinal logistic regression. We determined the day of week effect on 5 accelerometry measures (counts per minute, CPM; % sedentary behavior; % light-lifestyle activity; % moderate-vigorous activity, MVPA; total activity counts) using multivariate linear regression and compared averages estimated over 2 or 3 versus 7 days using correlations, linear regression, and Bland-Altman plots.

Results: Among 2,208 participants aged 65+, 85% of participants had ≥2 and 44% had 7 valid wear days. Increasing age (p = 0.01) and non-white race (p < 0.001) were associated with fewer days. Daily CPM, % MVPA, and total daily activity counts were similar Monday through Saturday, but significantly lower on Sundays (p < 0.001). Daily % sedentary behavior and % light-lifestyle activity were significantly different on Saturdays (p = 0.04-0.045) and Sundays (p < 0.001) compared to weekdays. Among participants with 7 valid days, 2 or 3 day averages were highly correlated with 7 day averages for all 5 accelerometry measures (2 versus 7 days: r = 0.90-0.93, 3 versus 7 days: r = 0.94-0.96).

Conclusions: Protocols of 2-3 days, adjusting for Sundays (average CPM, % moderate-vigorous activity, and average total daily activity counts) or weekends (% sedentary behavior and % light-lifestyle activity), give reliable estimates of older adult activity.

MeSH terms

  • Accelerometry*
  • Aged
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Female
  • Hip / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Nutrition Surveys
  • Sedentary Behavior
  • United States