Accelerometry-Based Physical Activity Assessment for Children and Adolescents

Part of the Springer Series on Epidemiology and Public Health book series (SSEH)


Accurate assessment of physical activity (PA) is important to study the associations between PA and health outcomes, to evaluate the effectiveness of interventions and to derive public health recommendations. Despite limitations, accelerometry-based methods generate the best available measures for epidemiological research involving a large number of children and adults. In this chapter, we review the most important methodological issues pertaining to the use of accelerometers to assess the overall volume of PA. We stress the importance of recording and keeping the raw data whenever possible. We review the validation studies using accelerometry to determine energy expenditure and calibration studies that attempt to derive thresholds (“cut-offs”) for differentiating between activity intensity categories. Conceptual and measurement issues due to the use of different thresholds are reviewed, as well as the temporal resolution issues such as sampling rate and epoch length. Different wear time detection algorithms and inclusion criteria are reviewed as well as options in data reduction (deriving meaningful variables from accelerometer data). We present an R package automatising most of the steps in accelerometer data analysis. The chapter concludes with some insights into the future of accelerometry given the wearable revolution and logistical considerations in using accelerometers in large field studies.


Intensity Categories Wear Time Moderate-to-vigorous Physical Activity (MVPA) IDEFICS Study Ojiambo 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The development of instruments, the baseline data collection, and the first follow-up work as part of the IDEFICS study ( were financially supported by the European Commission within the Sixth RTD Framework Programme Contract No. 016181 (FOOD). The most recent follow-up including the development of new instruments and the adaptation of previously used instruments was conducted in the framework of the I.Family study ( which was funded by the European Commission within the Seventh RTD Framework Programme Contract No. 266044 (KBBE 2010–14).

We thank all families for participating in the extensive examinations of the IDEFICS and I.Family studies. We are also grateful for the support from school boards, headmasters, and communities.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.National Institute for Health DevelopmentTallinnEstonia
  2. 2.Institute of Psychology, University of TartuTartuEstonia
  3. 3.School of Natural Sciences and HealthTallinn UniversityTallinnEstonia
  4. 4.Leeds Institute of Rheumatic and Musculoskeletal Medicine, University of LeedsLeedsUK
  5. 5.Department of Medical PhysiologyMoi UniversityEldoretKenya
  6. 6.GENUD Research GroupUniversity of ZaragozaZaragozaSpain
  7. 7.Department of Movement, Human and Health SciencesUniversity of Rome “Foro Italico”RomeItaly
  8. 8.Collaborating Centre of Sports Medicine, University of BrightonEastbourneUK

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