Deriving a GPS Monitoring Time Recommendation for Physical Activity Studies of Adults

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Abstract

Introduction

Determining locations of physical activity (PA) is important for surveillance and intervention development, yet recommendations for using location recording tools like global positioning system (GPS) units are lacking. Specifically, no recommendation exists for the number of days study participants should wear a GPS to reliably estimate PA time spent in locations.

Methods

This study used data from participants (N = 224, age = 18–85 yr) in five states who concurrently wore an ActiGraph GT1M accelerometer and a Qstarz BT-Q1000X GPS for three consecutive weeks to construct monitoring day recommendations through variance partitioning methods. PA bouts ≥10 min were constructed from accelerometer counts, and the location of GPS points was determined using a hand-coding protocol.

Results

Monitoring day recommendations varied by the type of location (e.g., participant homes vs parks) and the intensity of PA bouts considered (low and medium cut point moderate to vigorous PA [MVPA] bouts or high cut point vigorous PA [VPA] bouts). In general, minutes of all PA intensities spent in a given location could be measured with ≥80% reliability using 1–3 d of GPS monitoring for fitness facilities, schools, and footpaths. MVPA bout minutes in parks and roads required longer monitoring periods of 5–12 d. PA in homes and commercial areas required >19 d of monitoring.

Conclusions

Twelve days of monitoring was found to reliably estimate minutes in both low and medium threshold MVPA as well as VPA bouts for many important built environment locations that can be targeted to increase PA at the population level. Minutes of PA in the home environment and commercial locations may be best assessed through other means given the lengthy estimated monitoring time required.

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