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Objective methods are being used increasingly for the quantification of the amount of physical activity, intensity of physical activity and amount of sedentary behaviour in children. The accelerometer is currently the objective method of choice. In this review we address the advantages of objective measurement compared with more traditional subjective methods, notably the avoidance of bias, greater confidence in the amount of activity and sedentary behaviour measured, and improved ability to relate variation in physical activity and sedentary behaviour to variation in health outcomes. We also consider unresolved practical issues in paediatric accelerometry by critically reviewing the existing evidence and by providing new evidence.