The unequivocal link between physical activity and health has prompted researchers and public health officials to search for valid, reliable, and logistically feasible tools to measure and quantify free-living physical activity. Accelerometers hold promise in this regard. Recent technological advances have led to decreases in both the size and cost of accelerometers while increasing functionality (e.g., greater memory, waterproofing). A lack of common data reduction and standardized reporting procedures dramatically limit their potential, however. The purpose of this article is to expand on the utility of accelerometers for measuring free-living physical activity. A detailed example profile of physical activity is presented to highlight the potential richness of accelerometer data. Specific recommendations for optimizing and standardizing the use of accelerometer data are provided with support from specific examples. This descriptive article is intended to advance and ignite scholarly dialogue and debate regarding accelerometer data capture, reduction, analysis, and reporting.
Esliger, Barnes, and Tremblay are with the College of Kinesiology at the University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, SK S7N 5B2 Canada. Tremblay is also with Statistics Canada, Ottawa, ON K1A 0T6 Canada. Copeland is with the University of Lethbridge, Lethbridge, AB T1K 3M4 Canada.