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J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2016 Aug;71(8):1039-48. doi: 10.1093/gerona/glw026. Epub 2016 Mar 8.

Assessing Daily Physical Activity in Older Adults: Unraveling the Complexity of Monitors, Measures, and Methods.

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Department of Epidemiology, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland.
MRC Unit for Lifelong Health and Ageing at UCL, London, UK.
Department of Social Medicine, CAPHRI School for Public Health and Primary Care, Maastricht University, The Netherlands.
Laboratory of Epidemiology and Population Sciences, National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland. Division of Preventive Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts.
Section of General Internal Medicine, Department of Medicine, Boston University School of Medicine and National Heart, Lung, Blood Institute's Framingham Heart Study, Massachusetts.
Department of Health and Exercise Science, Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
Longitudinal Studies Section, Translational Gerontology Branch, National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health, Baltimore, Maryland.
Laboratory of Epidemiology and Population Sciences, National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland.


At the 67th Gerontological Society of America Annual Meeting, a preconference workshop was convened to discuss the challenges of accurately assessing physical activity in older populations. The advent of wearable technology (eg, accelerometers) to monitor physical activity has created unprecedented opportunities to observe, quantify, and define physical activity in the real-world setting. These devices enable researchers to better understand the associations of physical activity with aging, and subsequent health outcomes. However, a consensus on proper methodological use of these devices in older populations has not been established. To date, much of the validation research regarding device type, placement, and data interpretation has been performed in younger, healthier populations, and translation of these methods to older populations remains problematic. A better understanding of these devices, their measurement properties, and the data generated is imperative to furthering our understanding of daily physical activity, its effects on the aging process, and vice versa. The purpose of this article is to provide an overview of the highlights of the preconference workshop, including properties of the different types of accelerometers, the methodological challenges of employing accelerometers in older study populations, a brief summary of ongoing aging-related research projects that utilize different types of accelerometers, and recommendations for future research directions.


Exercise; Functional performance; Physical activity; Physical function; Physical performance

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