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Publication Detail
Measuring young people's physical activity using accelerometers in the UK Millennium Cohort Study
  • Publication Type:
    Working discussion paper
  • Authors:
    Gilbert E, Conolly A, Tietz S, Calderwood L, Rose N
  • Publisher:
    Centre for Longitudinal Studies working paper series, 2017/15
  • Publication date:
  • Keyword:
    measurement, accelerometers, physical activity
Measuring physical activity presents methodological challenges for survey research. Most large-scale population based studies use respondent self-report to measure physical activity, which is subject to both recall and social desirability bias. The use of wearable devices that measure physical activity directly can offer a solution to these problems. Activity monitors, also known as accelerometers, are capable of capturing a wide range of movements as well as the differing intensity of activities. Increasingly, accelerometers are also being recognised for their ability to measure sedentary behaviour. The Millennium Cohort Study (MCS) follows over 19,000 young people in the UK born in 2000/1. The sixth sweep of the study collected data from cohort members when they were 14 years old and included the collection of physical activity data using wrist-worn activity monitors. Field interviewers placed wrist-worn accelerometers with respondents during face-to-face visits and asked them to wear the device for two complete days; one during the week and one at the weekend, which were randomly selected at the time of placement. Young people and their parents were sent text messages reminding them to complete the tasks on the selected days. Upon completion of the second day of activity data collection respondents were asked to return the accelerometer in a pre-paid envelope. Two different types of accelerometer were trialled during the pilot studies to inform the choice of device. The feasibility of collecting accelerometer data from 14-year olds was assessed during the development phase of the survey using both qualitative and quantitative methods. This informed the approach taken at the mainstage of the survey. This paper presents the approach taken to the implementation of activity monitors on the main stage of the Millennium Cohort Study Age 14 Survey, and highlights a number of considerations for the implementation of objective physical activity data collection in large-scale face-to-face surveys.
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