Assessment of Physical Activity in Adults Using Wrist Accelerometers

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The health benefits of physical activity (PA) have been widely recognized, yet traditional measures of PA, including questionnaires and category-based assessments of volume and intensity, provide only broad estimates of daily activities. Accelerometers have advanced epidemiologic research on PA by providing objective and continuous measurement of PA in free-living conditions. Wrist-worn accelerometers have become especially popular because of low participant burden. However, the validity and reliability of wrist-worn devices for adults have yet to be summarized. Moreover, accelerometer data provide rich information on how PA is accumulated throughout the day, but only a small portion of these rich data have been used by researchers. Last, new methodological developments are emerging that aim to overcome some of the limitations of accelerometers. In this review, we provide an overview of accelerometry research, with a special focus on wrist-worn accelerometers. We describe briefly how accelerometers work; summarize the validity and reliability of wrist-worn accelerometers; discuss the benefits of accelerometers, including measuring light-intensity PA; and discuss pattern metrics of daily PA recently introduced in the literature. A summary of large-scale cohort studies and randomized trials that implemented wrist-worn accelerometry is provided. We conclude the review by discussing new developments and directions of research using accelerometers, with a focus on wrist-worn accelerometers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)65-93
Number of pages29
JournalEpidemiologic reviews
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2021


  • Accelerometry
  • bias
  • epidemiologic studies
  • exercise
  • sedentary behavior

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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