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VALIDITY OF CONSUMER-BASED PHYSICAL ACTIVITY MONITORS
DURING SEMI-STRUCTURED FREE-LIVING CONDITIONS
Background: Accelerometry-based physical activity monitors are commonly used in
research, but recently, many consumer-based monitors have emerged in the market.
These devices are marketed to provide personal information on the levels of physical
activity and daily energy expenditure (EE), but little or no information is available to
substantiate their validity. Purpose: The present study examines the validity of EE
estimates from a variety of consumer-based, physical activity monitors under free-living
conditions. Methods: Sixty (26.4 ± 5.7 years) healthy males (n=30) and females (n=30)
wore eight different activity monitors simultaneously, while completing a 69-minute
protocol, involving a diverse array of both free-living and structured activities. The
monitors included the BodyMedia FIT armband worn on the left arm, DirectLife monitor
around the neck, Fitbit One, Fitbit Zip, and ActiGraph worn on the belt, as well as
Jawbone Up and Basis B1 band monitor on the wrist. The validity of the EE estimates
from each monitor was evaluated relative to criterion values concurrently obtained from a
portable metabolic system (Oxycon Mobile). Differences from criterion measures were
expressed as a mean absolute percent error (MAPE) and were evaluated using 95%
equivalence testing. Results: For overall group comparisons, MAPE values (computed as
the average absolute value of the group level errors) were 9.3, 10.1, 10.4, 12.2, 12.6, 12.8,
13,0 and 23.5% for BodyMedia FIT, Fitbit Zip, Fitbit One, Jawbone Up, ActiGraph,
DirectLife, NikeFuel Band, and Basis B1 band respectively. The results from the
equivalence testing showed the estimates from the BodyMedia FIT, Fitbit Zip, and
NikeFuel Band (90% CI: 341.1, 359.4) were each within the 10% equivalence zone
around the indirect calorimetry estimate. Conclusions: The indicators of agreement
clearly favored the BodyMedia FIT armband but promising preliminary findings were
also observed with the Fibit Zip. The other consumer-based monitors yielded estimates
that were generally comparable to the widely used Actigraph monitor. However, some
findings should be interpreted with caution due to some inconsistencies in the pattern of
Accelerometers have become the standard method for assessing physical activity
in field-based research. They are small, non-invasive, easy-to-use, and provide an
objective indicator of physical activity (PA) over extended periods of time. They have
been used almost exclusively for research but advances in technology have led to an
explosion of new consumer-based, activity monitors designed for use by individuals
interested in fitness, health, and weight control. Examples include the BodyMedia FIT,
Fitbit, DirectLife, Jawbone Up, NikeFuel band, as well as the Basis Band. The
development of these consumer-based monitors has been driven in large part by the
increased availability of low cost accelerometer technology in the marketplace. The
refinement of other technology (e.g., Bluetooth) and the increased sophistication of
websites and personalized social media applications have also spurred the movement.
These new accelerometry-based monitors provide consumers with the ability to estimate
PA and energy expenditure (EE), and track data over time on websites or through cell
Other technologies have also been adapted to capitalize on consumer interest in
health and wellness. Pedometers developed originally to measure steps have been
calibrated to estimate EE and to store data over time . Geographical positioning system
(GPS) monitors, developed primarily for use in navigation are now marketed to athletes
and recreation enthusiasts to monitor speed and EE from the activity. Heart rate monitors,
originally marketed to athletes, have also been modified and marketed to appeal to most
recreational athletes interested in health and weight control. While the functions and
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