Working environments have in recent times become less physical with the increase in sedentary, computer-based occupations. Sedentary time is known to be associated with a number of health-related outcomes, including obesity, heart disease, diabetes, cardiometabolic risk factors, some cancers and early mortality, independent of physical activity. There is limited research that has examined sedentary time and physical activity and associations with musculoskeletal conditions, despite these being responsible for the majority of work-related ill health and days absent from work.
The validity and practicality of objective and subjective techniques to measure physical behaviour have been widely reported; however, there is no gold standard that is valid, accurate, reliable and also practical. Self-reported methods can be practical and low-cost, but are subject to recall and social desirability bias; whereas objective devices, such as accelerometers, can be expensive, but allow for information on intensity, frequency and duration of activity to be measured.
The Health Survey for England 2008 used both subjective and objective measures of physical activity: they found that 39% of men and 29% of women were meeting the recommended levels of physical activity when asked via a questionnaire. In comparison, when physical activity was objectively measured using an accelerometer, it was found that only 6% of men and 4% of women met these targets.
Wearable technologies, including research grade accelerometers (e.g. activPAL™) and consumer wearables (e.g. FitBit), are increasingly being used in research, not only to measure physical behaviours but may also be useful in facilitating and monitoring behaviour change. This work will present an overview of wearable technologies used in research, what they can (and can't) measure, and in particular their application in musculoskeletal research.
Disclosure of Interest None declared