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Front Neurol. 2018 Jul 3;9:478. doi: 10.3389/fneur.2018.00478. eCollection 2018.

Estimation of Energy Expenditure in Wheelchair-Bound Spinal Cord Injured Individuals Using Inertial Measurement Units.

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Rehabilitation Engineering Laboratory, Department of Health Sciences and Technology, ETH Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland.
Spinal Cord Injury Center, Balgrist University Hospital, Zurich, Switzerland.
Exercise Physiology Lab, Department of Health Sciences and Technology, ETH Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland.
Department of Internal Medicine I, University of Lübeck, Lübeck, Germany.
Department of Clinical Neurosciences & MRC Centre for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom.


A healthy lifestyle reduces the risk of cardio-vascular disease. As wheelchair-bound individuals with spinal cord injury (SCI) are challenged in their activities, promoting and coaching an active lifestyle is especially relevant. Although there are many commercial activity trackers available for the able-bodied population, including those providing feedback about energy expenditure (EE), activity trackers for the SCI population are largely lacking, or are limited to a small set of activities performed in controlled settings. The aims of the present study were to develop and validate an algorithm based on inertial measurement unit (IMU) data to continuously monitor EE in wheelchair-bound individuals with a SCI, and to establish reference activity values for a healthy lifestyle in this population. For this purpose, EE was measured in 30 subjects each wearing four IMUs during 12 different physical activities, randomly selected from a list of 24 activities of daily living. The proposed algorithm consists of three parts: resting EE estimation based on multi-linear regression, an activity classification using a k-nearest-neighbors algorithm, and EE estimation based on artificial neural networks (ANNs). The mean absolute estimation error for the ANN-based algorithm was 14.4% compared to indirect calorimeter measurements. Based on reference values from the literature and the data collected within this study, we recommend wheeling 3 km per day for a healthy lifestyle in wheelchair-bound SCI individuals. Combining the proposed algorithm with a recommendation for physical activity provides a powerful tool for the promotion of an active lifestyle in the SCI population, thereby reducing the risk for secondary diseases.


energy expenditure; estimation model; inertial measurement unit; long-term activity monitoring; spinal cord injury; wheelchair

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