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methods, motor activity, wheelchairs



  1. Warms, Catherine A.
  2. Belza, Basia L.


Background: Research has indicated that actigraphy is valid and reliable for measuring low levels of physical activity among ambulatory individuals, and that it may be a valid indicator of energy expenditure for wheelchair users in laboratory conditions, but there are no reports of its evaluation in free-living conditions.


Objective: To assess the suitability and validity of actigraphy as a measure of free-living physical activity for wheelchair users with spinal cord injury.


Methods: In a methodologic descriptive correlational study, measures of physical activity by an actigraph and a self-report physical activity record were obtained for six individuals in laboratory conditions and 22 individuals in free-living conditions during a 4-day period. At the completion of the home monitoring trial, all the participants completed a questionnaire about their experience wearing the monitor and maintaining the record.


Results: Mean activity counts by actigraphy during active tasks were significantly different from the counts during inactive tasks (p = .003). During home monitoring, the participants wore the monitor, on the average, 95% of the prescribed wearing time, rated it as very comfortable, and were willing to wear it again. Pearson correlation coefficients of activity counts with self-reported activity intensity varied from .30 to .77 (p < .01) for individual participants. The mean correlation across the sample was .60 (p < .01). Activity counts varied with reported activity, indicating concurrence between the two activity measurement methods.


Conclusions: Actigraphy is suitable as a measurement of activity for people with spinal cord injury. This initial investigation suggests that it has concurrent validity with a self-report measure of activity intensity and frequency, as evidenced in this sample of wheelchair users in free-living conditions.