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Prev Med. 2016 Oct;91:389-394. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2016.06.017. Epub 2016 Jun 18.

Feedback from physical activity monitors is not compatible with current recommendations: A recalibration study.

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Department for Health, University of Bath, Bath BA2 7AY, UK. Electronic address:
Health and Social Care Institute, Teesside University, Middlesbrough TS1 3BA, UK.
Department for Health, University of Bath, Bath BA2 7AY, UK.
Directorate of Health Services, Air Force Head Quarters, P.O. BOX 1592, Colombo 02, Sri Lanka.


Wearable devices to self-monitor physical activity have become popular with individuals and healthcare practitioners as a route to the prevention of chronic disease. It is not currently possible to reconcile feedback from these devices with activity recommendations because the guidelines refer to the amount of activity required on top of normal lifestyle activities (e.g., 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous intensity activity per week over-and-above normal moderate-to-vigorous lifestyle activities). The aim of this study was to recalibrate the feedback from self-monitoring. We pooled data from four studies conducted between 2006 and 2014 in patients and volunteers from the community that included both sophisticated measures of physical activity and 10-year risk for cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes (n=305). We determined the amount of moderate-to-vigorous intensity activity that corresponded to FAO/WHO/UNU guidance for a required PAL of 1.75 (Total Energy Expenditure/Basal Metabolic Rate). Our results show that, at the UK median PAL, total moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity will be around 735 minutes per week (~11% of waking time). We estimate that a 4% increase in moderate-to-vigorous intensity activity will achieve standardised guidance from FAO/WHO/UNU and will require ~1000 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous intensity activity per week. This study demonstrates that feedback from sophisticated wearable devices is incompatible with current physical activity recommendations. Without adjustment, people will erroneously form the view that they are exceeding recommendations by several fold. A more appropriate target from self-monitoring that accounts for normal moderate-to-vigorous lifestyle activities is ~1000 minutes per week, which represents ~15% of waking time.


Exercise; Physical activity energy expenditure; Physical activity monitoring; Physical activity recommendations; Physical activity status

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