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Br J Sports Med. 2014 Jul;48(13):1054-8. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2014-093530. Epub 2014 May 9.

Adding maps (GPS) to accelerometry data to improve study participants' recall of physical activity: a methodological advance in physical activity research.

Author information

  • 1Department of Family & Consumer Studies, Cancer Control & Population Sciences, Huntsman Cancer Institute, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA.
  • 2GeoStats Services, a Division of Westat, Atlanta, Georgia, USA.
  • 3Department of Geography, Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, USA.
  • 4Department of Psychology, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA.



Obtaining the 'when, where and why' of healthy bouts of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) provides insights into natural PA.


In Salt Lake City, Utah, adults wore accelerometer and Global Positioning System (GPS) loggers for a week in a cross-sectional study to establish baseline travel and activity patterns near a planned Complete Street intervention involving a new rail line, new sidewalks and a bike path.


At the end of the week, research assistants met with the 918 participants who had at least three 10 h days of good accelerometer readings. Accelerometer and GPS data were uploaded and integrated within a custom application, and participants were provided with maps and time information for past MVPA bouts of ≥3 min to help them recall bout details. Participants said that 'getting someplace' was, on average, a more important motivation for their bouts than leisure or exercise. A series of recall tests showed that participants recalled most bouts they were asked about, regardless of the duration of the bout, suggesting that participant perceptions of their shorter lifestyle bouts can be studied with this methodology. Visual prompting with a map depicting where each bout took place yielded more accurate recall than prompting with time cues alone.


These techniques provide a novel way to understand participant memories of the context and subjective assessments associated with healthy bouts of PA. Prompts with time-stamped maps that illustrate places of MVPA offer an effective method to improve understanding of activity and its supportive sociophysical contexts.

Published by the BMJ Publishing Group Limited. For permission to use (where not already granted under a licence) please go to


Physical activity and exercise methodology; Physical activity measurement; Walking

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