Research Study Abstract

Comparison of two accelerometers for measuring physical activity and sedentary behaviour

  • Published on May 12, 2017

Purpose: A central aspect of physical activity and sedentary behaviour research is accurate exposure assessment in the context of disease outcomes. The primary objectives of this study were to evaluate the convergent validity and test-retest reliability of the ActiGraph GT3X+ and activPAL3 accelerometers.

Methods: Participants from the Breast Cancer and Exercise Trial in Alberta (n=266) wore both devices concurrently during waking hours for 7 days. Summary measures of time (hours/day) for physical activity and sedentary behaviour were compared between devices using Student’s t-tests. Bland-Altman plots were used to assess or evaluate the mean differences and limits of agreement between monitors, and intraclass correlation coefficients (ICCs) were used to assess the test-retest reliability of two 7-day activity monitor administrations separated by 2 weeks (n=29).

Results: When comparing the ActiGraph Vector Magnitude (VM), which incorporates all three axes of movement (x, y, z), and the Vertical Axis (VT), which detects movement on the vertical or y-axis only, with the activPAL3, all measures of physical activity were statistically significantly different. The difference in measured time in sedentary behaviour was not statistically significant different when comparing the activPAL3 and ActiGraph (VT) estimates (p=0.47) but was statistically significant different for activPAL3 compared with ActiGraph (VM) (p<0.001). ICCs were high and consistent for each method across all behaviours, ranging from 0.87 to 0.93, with the exception of moderate activity and moderate-to-vigorous activity by the ActiGraph (VT) at 0.66 and 0.67, respectively.

Conclusion: Despite small mean differences and comparable recordings by both devices at the group level, the precision of estimates between methods was low with wide limits of agreement, suggesting these devices may not be used interchangeably for measuring physical activity and sedentary behaviour using common data reduction methods.


  • Pfister T 1
  • Matthews CE 2
  • Wang Q 3
  • Kopciuk KA 3
  • Courneya K 4
  • Friedenreich C 3


  • 1

    Health Technology Assessment and Adoption, Research Innovation and Analytics Portfolio, Alberta Health Services, Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

  • 2

    Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, National Cancer Institute, Rockville, Maryland, USA.

  • 3

    Cancer Epidemiology and Prevention Research, Alberta Health Services, Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

  • 4

    Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.


BMJ Open Sport Exercise Medicine