The Best Accelerometer for Research in 2021 - How to Choose the Right Activity Tracker? Dr Olli Tikkanen

The Best Accelerometer for Research in 2021 - How to Choose the Right Activity Tracker? Dr Olli Tikkanen

This episode is an audio extract from Youtube video from Physical Activity Researcher Podcast Youtube channel:


0:00 Introduction

5:30 Activinsights

11:30 Actigraph 

25:20 PAL Technologies (ActivPAL)

34:45 Axivity (Axivity AX3, Axivity AX6)

46:55 Fibion Inc. (Fibion Research)

1:04:50 Fibion Inc. (Fibion SENS Motion)


Learn more about Fibion Research:

Learn more about Fibion SENS Motion:


Video description:

This video goes through different accelerometer and activity tracking options for researchers. If you are a researcher who needs to track physical activity and/or sedentary behaviour this video should be valuable for you. We are going to look at different devices from many different manufacturers and their pros and cons. 

And it is not like one device would be the optimal device for all projects. Every project is different and there are many factors that determine what kind of device would be the best fit for your purposes. 

These factors include for example, who are your participants? Are they small kids whose wrist might be too small for big bulky devices? Are they elderly who might not be accustomed to use smart phone or even email?

Do you need to provide participants feedback only after the intervention or already during the intervention? So, if you are doing projects which aim to behaviour change you possibly need to be able to give feedback right after the measurements. There are actually big differences related to this between different devices and this is something you might not remember to consider when focusing too much attention to specifications of the devices. 

One important factor is also, whether physical activity is main outcome variable in your study, or whether you just, for example, need to exclude that changes in physical activity did not influence your results. In the latter case, you might just want to have a device that just makes data collection and analysis as easy as possible.

Do you need also accurate results related to sitting and sedentary behaviour? In that case, you want to consider a thigh-worn device as it is basically the only wearing position that can do posture allocation accurately.

In general, wearing location is of crucial importance for any project. In my opinion, it comes down to compliance and accuracy.

Many studies are using wrist-worn devices as people have been used to wearing watches, and a watch-like activity tracker is really easy to wrap around the wrist. So, it is easy, and compliance generally good. 

Then there are thigh-worn devices. Influential ProPass consortium is recommending thigh as a preferred location for accelerometers as it provides more accurate results than other wearing positions. This is straightforward as we are moving with our legs and not with our arms and in sitting vs standing thigh is changing its angle, which we can detect with a thigh-worn device.


Glad to hear your opinions!

What devices you are using in your research projects? 

What have been the pros and cons with those devices?

What new features would you like to see in accelerometers/activity trackers?

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