Validity of Activity Monitor Step Detection Is Related to Movement Patterns

in Journal of Physical Activity and Health
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There is a need to examine step-counting accuracy of activity monitors during different types of movements. The purpose of this study was to compare activity monitor and manually counted steps during treadmill and simulated free-living activities and to compare the activity monitor steps to the StepWatch (SW) in a natural setting.


Fifteen participants performed laboratory-based treadmill (2.4, 4.8, 7.2 and 9.7 km/h) and simulated free-living activities (eg, cleaning room) while wearing an activPAL, Omron HJ720-ITC, Yamax Digi-Walker SW-200, 2 ActiGraph GT3Xs (1 in “low-frequency extension” [AGLFE] and 1 in “normal-frequency” mode), an ActiGraph 7164, and a SW. Participants also wore monitors for 1-day in their free-living environment. Linear mixed models identified differences between activity monitor steps and the criterion in the laboratory/free-living settings.


Most monitors performed poorly during treadmill walking at 2.4 km/h. Cleaning a room had the largest errors of all simulated free-living activities. The accuracy was highest for forward/rhythmic movements for all monitors. In the free-living environment, the AGLFE had the largest discrepancy with the SW.


This study highlights the need to verify step-counting accuracy of activity monitors with activities that include different movement types/directions. This is important to understand the origin of errors in step-counting during free-living conditions.

Hickey, Sasaki, Mavilia, and Freedson ( are with the Dept of Kinesiology, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA. John is with the Dept of Kinesiology, Northeastern University, Boston, MA.