Wearable accelerometer-based activity monitors (AMs) are used to estimate energy expenditure and ground reaction forces in free-living environments, but a lack of standardized calibration and data reporting methods limits their utility. The objectives of this study were to (1) design an inexpensive and easily reproducible AM testing system, (2) develop a standardized calibration method for accelerometer-based AMs, and (3) evaluate the utility of the system and accuracy of the calibration method. A centrifuge-type device was constructed to apply known accelerations (0-8g) to each sensitive axis of 30 custom and two commercial AMs. Accelerometer data were recorded and matrix algebra and a least squares solution were then used to determine a calibration matrix for the custom AMs to convert raw accelerometer output to units of g’s. Accuracy was tested by comparing applied and calculated accelerations for custom and commercial AMs. AMs were accurate to within 4% of applied accelerations. The relatively inexpensive AM testing system (< $100) and calibration method has the potential to improve the sharing of AM data, the ability to compare data from different studies, and the accuracy of AM-based models to estimate various physiological and biomechanical quantities of interest in field-based assessments of physical activity.
Crystal L. Coolbaugh and David A. Hawkins are with the Biomedical Engineering Graduate Group at the University of California, Davis in Davis, CA. Hawkins is also with the Department of Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavior at the University of California, Davis.