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BMC Public Health. 2014 Nov 24;14:1210. doi: 10.1186/1471-2458-14-1210.

Impact of accelerometer data processing decisions on the sample size, wear time and physical activity level of a large cohort study.

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Nutritional Epidemiology Branch, Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, MD, USA.



Accelerometers objectively assess physical activity (PA) and are currently used in several large-scale epidemiological studies, but there is no consensus for processing the data. This study compared the impact of wear-time assessment methods and using either vertical (V)-axis or vector magnitude (VM) cut-points on accelerometer output.


Participants (7,650 women, mean age 71.4 y) were mailed an accelerometer (ActiGraph GT3X+), instructed to wear it for 7 days, record dates and times the monitor was worn on a log, and return the monitor and log via mail. Data were processed using three wear-time methods (logs, Troiano or Choi algorithms) and V-axis or VM cut-points.


Using algorithms alone resulted in "mail-days" incorrectly identified as "wear-days" (27-79% of subjects had >7-days of valid data). Using only dates from the log and the Choi algorithm yielded: 1) larger samples with valid data than using log dates and times, 2) similar wear-times as using log dates and times, 3) more wear-time (V, 48.1 min more; VM, 29.5 min more) than only log dates and Troiano algorithm. Wear-time algorithm impacted sedentary time (~30-60 min lower for Troiano vs. Choi) but not moderate-to-vigorous (MV) PA time. Using V-axis cut-points yielded ~60 min more sedentary time and ~10 min less MVPA time than using VM cut-points.


Combining log-dates and the Choi algorithm was optimal, minimizing missing data and researcher burden. Estimates of time in physical activity and sedentary behavior are not directly comparable between V-axis and VM cut-points. These findings will inform consensus development for accelerometer data processing in ongoing epidemiologic studies.

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