Academic journal article Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport

Methodological Considerations for Researchers and Practitioners Using Pedometers to Measure Physical (Ambulatory) Activity

Academic journal article Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport

Methodological Considerations for Researchers and Practitioners Using Pedometers to Measure Physical (Ambulatory) Activity

Article excerpt

Researchers and practitioners require guidelines for using electronic pedometers to objectively quantify physical activity (specifically ambulatory activity) for research and surveillance as well as clinical and program applications. Methodological considerations include choice of metric and length of monitoring frame as well as different data recording and collection procedures. A systematic review of 32 empirical studies suggests we can expect 12,000-16,000 steps/day for 8-10-year-old children (lower for girls than boys); 7,000-13,000 steps/day for relatively healthy, younger adults (lower for women than men); 6,000-8,500 steps/day for healthy older adults; and 3,500-5,500 steps/day for individuals living with disabilities and chronic illnesses. These preliminary recommendations should be modified and refined, as evidence and experience using pedometers accumulates.

Key words: exercise, walking, program evaluation, surveillance

The accurate quantification of physical activity behaviors is important to epidemiologists, physiologists, and behavioral scientists as well as clinicians and practitioners challenged to address the undeniable public health threat of sedentariness (Pate et al., 1995; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1996). To date, self-report methods (including diaries or logs and surveys or questionnaires) have been the preferred method of quantification, likely due to their ease of administration. It is becoming increasingly apparent that, in addition to the well known limitations of such methods (e.g., recall bias and floor effects), walking (in all its forms) is unreliably recalled (Ainsworth, Leon, Richardson, Jacobs, & Paffenbarger, 1993; Bassett, Cureton, & Ainsworth, 2000; Kriska et al., 1990), and results vary with instrument and scoring procedures (Sarkin, Nichols, Sallis, & Calfas, 2000).

Motion sensors, particularly accelerometers, are gaining respectability due to their capacity to objectively quantify baseline or customary physical activity as a continuous, incremental variable as well as to detect subtle, incremental changes as a result of intervention (Westerterp, 1999). This shift was abundantly apparent in the June 2000 Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport Measurement of Physical Activity Special Issue, in which most articles discussed objective monitoring to some extent (Mahar & Ainsworth, 2000). Objective monitoring of physical activity is still in its infancy, however, and there is much to learn about the potential of these promising devices. Equally important, motion sensors are generally easy to administer and score, acceptable to participants, and can be used by persons with language or literacy difficulties. Unfortunately, the cost of accelerometers ($50-400 per unit) is prohibitive for all but small sample studies designed to advance basic scientific understanding.

Pedometers are less expensive ($10-50 per unit) motion sensors that show acceptable accuracy (Bassett et al., 1996), reliability (Tryon, Pinto, & Morrison, 1991), and convergent and discriminative validity (Tudor-Locke & Myers, in press b). Bassett et al. (2000) has shown good agreement (r = .80-.90) between inexpensive pedometers and more expensive accelerometers and has suggested that the two types of motion sensors measure approximately the same thing (Bassett, 2000). Pedometers are particularly sensitive to walking behaviors or ambulatory activity (Bassett, 2000; Bassey, Dallosso, Fentem, Irving, & Patrick, 1987; Freedson & Miller, 2000; Kashiwazaki, Inaoka, Suzuki, & Kondo, 1986; Saris & Binkhorst, 1977; Shephard, 1989). Walking is arguably the most common manifestation of customary daily activity; engagement in other types of physical activity (i.e., structured or vigorous) is infrequent and intermittent (Blair, 1984; Masse et al., 1998). Researchers are slowly beginning to acknowledge that, in terms o f practicality, pedometers currently offer the best solution for a low cost, objective monitoring tool (Welk, Corbin, & Dale, 2000). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.