The Caltrac accelerometer functions as either an activity monitor that provides activity counts based on vertical acceleration as the individual moves about, or as a calorie counter in which the acceleration units are used in conjunction with body size, age, and sex to estimate energy expenditure. This study compared VO2 based energy expenditure with Caltrac estimated energy expenditure during three speeds of treadmill walking in children and adults. It also tested the validity of the Caltrac to differentiate between high and low levels of walking activity (activity counts). Ten boys and 10 men completed three randomly assigned walks while oxygen consumption was monitored and Caltrac estimates were obtained. The results indicate that the Caltrac does not accurately predict energy expenditure for boys and men across the three speeds of walking. Although there were no significant differences between actual and predicted energy expenditure values, the standard errors of estimate were high (17-25%) and the only significant correlation was found for men at the fastest walking speed (r=.81). However, the 95% confidence intervals of the activity counts and energy expenditure estimates from the Caltrac support its use as an activity monitor during walking.
The authors are with the Department of Exercise Science, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA 01003.