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Benefits of the Objective Measurement of Physical Activity

Published:
14 September 2022
Posted in:

Benefits of the objective measurement of physical activity

By Amy Bates, Marketing Executive

Insufficient levels of physical activity are associated with 1 in 6 deaths in the UK and are estimated to cost the UK £7.4 billion annually (including £0.9 billion to the NHS alone). As a result, lack of physical activity is one of the top ten causes of death globally and is a predominant risk factor for non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes. Such statistics have led the World Health Organisation to declare physical inactivity a global public health problem.

Changes in lifestyle and increasing urbanisation are partly responsible for the insufficient levels of physical inactivity within populations. To tackle this, the NHS is pushing to develop new preventative healthcare strategies, many of which involve identifying behaviours that increase the risk of poor physical health.

Most people are unable to assess their levels of physical activity accurately and reliably. Generally, estimation of perceived activity will be a great deal higher than the reality. Therefore, the use of objective tools, such as accelerometers, to measure activity levels are rapidly superseding the use of self-reported questionnaires.

Accelerometers are now widely used within the research community to conduct population-level studies to assess health and performance. These unobtrusive, wrist-worn devices allow accurate data to be collected, revealing a more complete picture of physical activity and sleep patterns in the participant’s normal environment, without the risk of self-report bias.

The collection of raw data in a real-world environment by researchers is instrumental in understanding the intricacies of people’s daily lives. This unfiltered data resource holds such depth of information but is still very much underused.

By increasing the use of scientifically validated technologies (such as the GENEActiv) to measure activity, healthcare professionals can see greater insights into patient behaviours and ultimately use this to inform preventative healthcare strategies.

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