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Practical physical activity measurement in youth: a review of contemporary approaches 
 
Practical physical activity measurement in youth: a review of contemporary approaches
  Jerome N Rachele, Steven M McPhail, Tracy L Washington, Thomas F Cuddihy
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Author Affiliations: Queensland University of Technology, School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences and Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation, Victoria Park Rd, Kelvin Grove, Queensland, Australia 4059 (Rachele JN, Washington TL, Cuddihy TF); Centre for Functioning and Health Research, Queensland Health, 199 Ipswich Road, Woolloongabba, Queensland, Australia 4102 and Queensland University of Technology, School of Public Health and Social Work and Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation, Victoria Park Rd, Kelvin Grove, Queensland, Australia 4059 (McPhail SM); Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, 124 La Trobe Street, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia 3000 (Cuddihy TF)

Corresponding Author: Jerome N Rachele, Victoria Park Rd, Kelvin Grove, Queensland 4059, Australia (Email: jerome.rachele@connect.qut.edu.au)

Background: The accurate evaluation of physical activity levels amongst youth is critical for quantifying physical activity behaviors and evaluating the effect of physical activity interventions. The purpose of this review is to evaluate contemporary approaches to physical activity evaluation amongst youth.

Data sources: The literature from a range of sources was reviewed and synthesized to provide an overview of contemporary approaches for measuring youth physical activity.

Results: Five broad categories are described: self-report, instrumental movement detection, biological approaches, direct observation, and combined methods. Emerging technologies and priorities for future research are also identified.

Conclusions: There will always be a trade-off between accuracy and available resources when choosing the best approach for measuring physical activity amongst youth. Unfortunately, cost and logistical challenges may prohibit the use of "gold standard" physical activity measurement approaches such as doubly labelled water. Other objective methods such as heart rate monitoring, accelerometry, pedometry, indirect calorimetry, or a combination of measures have the potential to better capture the duration and intensity of physical activity, while self-reported measures are useful for capturing the type and context of activity.

Key words: accelerometer; instrument; measurement; physical activity; youth

World J Pediatr 2012;8(3):207-216

 
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