Back to top

Novel technology to help understand the context of physical activity and sedentary behaviour


Loveday A, Sherar LB, Sanders JP, Sanderson PW, Esliger DW. Novel technology to help understand the context of physical activity and sedentary behaviour. Physiol Meas. 2016;37(10):1834-51.


When used in large, national surveillance programmes, objective measurement tools provide prevalence estimates of low physical activity guideline compliance and high amounts of sedentary time. There are undoubtedly a plethora of reasons for this but one possible contributing factor is the current lack of behavioural context offered by accelerometers and posture sensors. Context includes information such as where the behaviour occurs, the type of activity being performed and is vital in allowing greater refinement of intervention strategies. Novel technologies are emerging with the potential to provide this information. Example data from three ongoing studies is used to illustrate the utility of these technologies. Study one assesses the concurrent validity of electrical energy monitoringand wearable cameras as measures of television viewing. This study found that on average the television is switched on for 202 min d-1but is visible in just 90 min of wearable camera images with a further 52 min where the participant is in their living room but the television is not visible in the image. Study two utilises indoor location monitoring to assess where older adult care home residents accumulate their sedentary time. This study found that residents were highly sedentary (sitting for an average of 720 min d-1) and spent the majority of their time in their own rooms with more time spent in communal areas in the morning than in the afternoon. Lastly, study three discusses the use of proximity sensors to quantify exposure to a height adjustable desk. These studies are example applications of this technology, with many other technologies available and applications possible. The adoption of these technologies will provide researchers with a more complete understanding of the behaviour than has previously been available.