Toy or tool? Activity trackers for the assessment of physical activity in the wild

Meyer, J and v. Holdt, K and Beck, E and Brandes, M and Pischke, C and Voelcker-Rehage, C
2019 IEEE International Conference on Healthcare Informatics (ICHI)
Understanding physical activity in the wild is a core challenge of many health studies. Tools such as research-grade accelerometers or questionnaires each have their pros and cons. Since a few years consumer-grade activity trackers are available that are easy to use and interesting for use in studies. However, the relevance as well as the precision of their data is unclear. We therefore investigate whether activity trackers can be used to gain reliable and meaningful insights into physical activity behaviors, and how they perform compared to established instruments. Our study setup involves 86 datasets from 70 persons, collected over 10 weeks with an ActiGraph GTX3, the IPAQ questionnaire, and a Fitbit Zip activity tracker. Our results show that the Fitbit delivers data that is by far better than the IPAQ and close to that of the ActiGraph. The results are transferrable to other brands of activity trackers. We conclude that activity trackers can provide reliable and detailed insights into physical activity behavior, making them a relevant addition to the toolbox of assessment instruments for physical activity.
Physical activity and health equity: primary prevention for healthy ageing