Accelerometer data requirements for reliable estimation of habitual physical activity and sedentary time of children during the early years – a worked example following a stepped approach

Publication authors

Daniel D Bingham, Silvia Costa, Stacy A Clemes, Ash C Routen, Helen J Moore, Sally E Barber


This study presents a worked example of a stepped process to reliably estimate the habitual physical activity and sedentary time of a sample of young children. A total of 299 children (2.9 ± 0.6 years) were recruited. Outcome variables were daily minutes of total physical activity, sedentary time, moderate to vigorous physical activity and proportional values of each variable. In total, 282 (94%) provided 3 h of accelerometer data on ≥1 day and were included in a 6-step process: Step-1: determine minimum wear-time; Step-2: process 7-day-data; Step-3: determine the inclusion of a weekend day; Step-4: examine day-to-day variability; Step-5: calculate single day intraclass correlation (ICC) (2,1); Step-6: calculate number of days required to reach reliability. Following the process the results were, Step-1: 6 h was estimated as minimum wear-time of a standard day. Step-2: 98 (32%) children had ≥6 h wear on 7 days. Step-3: no differences were found between weekdays and weekend days (P ≥ 0.05). Step-4: no differences were found between day-to-day variability (P ≥ 0.05). Step-5: single day ICC’s (2,1) ranged from 0.48 (total physical activity and sedentary time) to 0.53 (proportion of moderate to vigorous physical activity). Step-6: to reach reliability (ICC = 0.7), 3 days were required for all outcomes. In conclusion following a 7 day wear protocol, ≥6 h on any 3 days was found to have acceptable reliability. The stepped-process offers researchers a method to derive sample-specific wear-time criterion.

Keywords: Acclererometry; measurement; physical activity; reliability; sedentary time; young children.