Albert Einstein taught us that “everything is relative.” People’s experience of physical activity (PA) is no different, with “relativism” particularly pertinent to the perception of intensity. Markers of absolute and relative intensities of PA have different but complimentary utilities, with absolute intensity considered best for PA guideline adherence and relative intensity for personalized exercise prescription. Under the paradigm of exercise and PA as medicine, our Technical Note proposes a method of synchronizing accelerometry with the incremental shuttle walking test to facilitate description of the intensity of the free-living PA profile in absolute and relative terms. Our approach is able to generate and distinguish “can do” or “cannot do” (based on exercise capacity) and “does do” or “does not do” (based on relative intensity PA) classifications in a chronic respiratory disease population, facilitating the selection of potential appropriate individually tailored interventions. By synchronizing direct assessments of exercise capacity and PA, clearer insights into the intensity of PA performed during everyday life can be gleaned. We believe the next steps are as follows: (1) to determine the feasibility and effectiveness of using relative and absolute intensities in combination to personalize the approach, (2) to determine its sensitivity to change following interventions (eg, exercise-based rehabilitation), and (3) to explore the use of this approach in healthier populations and in other long-term conditions.
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