Automated physical activity monitoring: validation and comparison with physiological and self-report measures

Psychophysiology. 1993 May;30(3):296-305. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-8986.1993.tb03356.x.


Physical activity can be assessed via self-report, via physiological measures such as heart rate and oxygen uptake, or via automated monitor. An electronic accelerometer-based physical activity device (Actigraph) has been reported as an improvement over other activity measurement techniques in terms of utility and accuracy. Four studies provide systematic validation and reliability testing for this device and comparisons with other techniques for assessing daily activities. In the first study, the sensitivity of the Actigraph was determined for differentiating physical activities (walking, running, stair climbing, knee bends) versus sedentary activities (reading, typing, playing video games, and performing a mental arithmetic task). Fifteen healthy adults wore the Actigraph on their wrist during activities; oxygen uptake and heart rate were simultaneously recorded. Results revealed that the Actigraph significantly differentiated between the physical activities (p < .0001) and the sedentary activities (p < .0001). Actigraph counts also correlated significantly with oxygen uptake (r = .73) and heart rate (r = .71) during physical activities (r = .46) and sedentary activities (r = .35), respectively. Test-retest reliability was very high for 12 activities (r = .98). The high level of activity differentiation and strong relationship to oxygen uptake and heart rate suggest the usefulness of this device for behavioral and biomedical studies. However, these studies also indicate that the wrist may not always be the most adequate placement for indexing rate and intensity of daily activities and that further studies are needed to determine the optimal site of monitor attachment. Advantages and disadvantages of self-report, physiological, and automated measures of activity are discussed.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Data Collection
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Female
  • Heart Rate / physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Monitoring, Physiologic / instrumentation
  • Monitoring, Physiologic / methods*
  • Oxygen / metabolism
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Vibration


  • Oxygen