PI: Neil Peterson
- Validate activity trackers including FitBit Surge, Basis Peak, and Apple Watch, against the validated ActiGraph GT3X+.
- Use quantitative and qualitative means to determine the influence on these commercial exercise trackers on changing sedentary behavior (SB) and physical activity (PA) behavior.
Evaluation of Academic Objectives:
Overall, the study was successful in measuring the validity of the activity trackers and testing their influence on activity level in adolescents and young adults. Both community members and BYU college students were participated in the study.
To validate the activity trackers, the devices were tested in a laboratory in a controlled setting. A total of 50 individuals participated in the study. The three activity trackers were tested against the ActiGraph GT3X+ on the following behaviors: lying down, sitting, typing on the computer, standing, and using a stationary bike (at light and moderate speeds), and walking on a treadmill (at light and moderate speeds). Steps and active time registered by the activity trackers was compared to output from the research-grade ActiGraph GT3X+ accelerometers.
Measuring the influence of activity trackers on physical activity in daily living had both quantitative and qualitative components. Completion of the study was a 2-week process where participants had a baseline week wearing only the research-grade accelerometer and a second week wearing both accelerometer and activity tracker. These two weeks were then compared against each other for changes in activity level. At the completion of the study, participants also completed an online survey that included their perception of what made the activity trackers motivating (or not motivating) for physical activity.
The mentored experience with this research project provided both breadth and depth of experience in the discipline of nursing and exercise science. In total, 9 undergraduate and 1 graduate students were mentored as part of this MEG. Mentored nursing students solidified research principles learned in the nursing program in course NURS 320. As the primary mentor, I reinforced training in research methods as well as principles of nursing and sedentary and active behaviors.
Collaborations to complete this research project included colleagues in the exercise science department. Students had the opportunity to gain additional mentoring from those faculty members. Providing a multidisciplinary environment for mentoring impressed how collaborative practice, in research or other endeavors, strengthens the research process. This also gave opportunities for students to develop personal and professional relationships. More and more, nursing is relying on inter-professional approaches and team science to successfully tackle today’s health dilemmas. By providing these experiences early in their learning, these students will seek out and expect these opportunities to synergistically address problems—qualities that top level institutions and hospitals are seeking in the next generation of nurses.
Finally, students learned that research is a dynamic process that requires planning but also flexibility. For example, during the daily living portion of the study, the Basis Peak activity trackers were recalled due to the potential for skin burns from overheating of the device’s battery. This provided good teaching moments to reinforce safety and ethical research practices.
Students and Academic Deliverables:
Description of Results and Findings:
During the validation phase, we noted variability in how the Fitbit Surge, Basis Peak, and Apple Watch measure steps, active minutes, calories burned, and heart rate. The behaviors that were tested were: lying down, sitting, typing on the computer, standing, and using a stationary bike (at light and moderate speeds), and walking on a treadmill (at light and moderate speeds). Although direct observation removes any error for comparison, the ActiGraph GT3X+ is a highly validated accelerometer for testing these kinds of behaviors and we are confident in the results of the validation process.
We experienced a couple of barriers while completing the daily living portion of the study. First, in doing some preliminary data exploration, we realized that 20 participants per device was going to be insufficient. We increased the participants from 20 to 50 per device to give the study more power. Next, we experienced several ActiGraph GT3X+ device data failures/loss despite correct initialization. We think this may have been due to an error in the program, with a recent update seeming to fix this problem. Finally, the Basis Peak was recalled due to potential for the battery to overheat and cause skin burns. We never experienced this issue, but had to eliminate this device nonetheless.
Results of the study have the potential to advance how SB and PA is understood and measured in adolescents and young adults, impacting future interventions in this emerging field. Establishing reliable and valid measures using commercially available activity trackers makes it possible for nurses to partner with clients to use these devices to improve client health and reduce sedentary time. Also, by finding out what participants like and dislike about the experience and the activity trackers themselves may give insight into how to tailor effective interventions for optimizing behavior and activity levels.