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Background: The accurate evaluation of physical activity levels amongst youth is critical for quantifying physical activity behaviors and evaluating the effect of physical activity interventions. The purpose of this review is to evaluate contemporary approaches to physical activity evaluation amongst youth. Data sources: The literature from a range of sources was reviewed and synthesized to provide an overview of contemporary approaches for measuring youth physical activity. Results: Five broad categories are described: selfreport, instrumental movement detection, biological approaches, direct observation, and combined methods. Emerging technologies and priorities for future research are also identified. Conclusions: There will always be a trade-off between accuracy and available resources when choosing the best approach for measuring physical activity amongst youth. Unfortunately, cost and logistical challenges may prohibit the use of “gold standard” physical activity measurement approaches such as doubly labelled water. Other objective methods such as heart rate monitoring, accelerometry, pedometry, indirect calorimetry, or a combination of measures have the potential to better capture the duration and intensity of physical activity, while self-reported measures are useful for capturing the type and context of activity.


Institute for Health and Ageing

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Journal Article

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