Validity, reliability and feasibility of commercially available activity trackers in physical therapy for people with a chronic disease: a study protocol of a mixed methods research

Emmylou Beekman*, Susy M. Braun, Darcy Ummels, Kim Van Vijven, Albine Moser, Anna J. Beurskens

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


For older people and people with a chronic disease, physical activity provides health benefits. Patients and healthcare professionals can use commercially available activity trackers to objectively monitor (alterations in) activity levels and patterns and to support physical activity. However, insight in the validity, reliability, and feasibility of these trackers in people with a chronic disease is needed. In this article, a study protocol is described in which the validity, reliability (part A), and feasibility from a patient and therapist’s point of view (part B) of commercially available activity trackers in daily life and health care is investigated.

In part A, a quantitative cross-sectional study, an activity protocol that simulates everyday life activities will be used to determine the validity and reliability of nine commercially available activity trackers. Video recordings will act as the gold standard. In part B, a qualitative participatory action research study will be performed to gain insight in the use of activity trackers in peoples’ daily life and therapy settings. Objective feasibility of the activity trackers will be measured with questionnaires, and subjective feasibility (experiences) will be explored in a community of practice. Physical therapists (n = 8) will regularly meet during 6 months to learn from each other regarding the actual use of activity trackers in therapy. Therapists and patients (n = 48) will decide together which tracker will be used in therapy and for which purpose (e.g., monitoring, goal setting). Data from the therapist’ and patients’ experiences will be collected by interviews (individual and focus groups) and analyzed by a directed content analysis. At the time of submission, selection of activity trackers, development of the activity protocol, and the ethical approval process are finished. Data collection and data processing are ongoing.

The relevance of the study as well as the advantages and disadvantages of several aspects of the chosen design are discussed. The results acquired from both study parts can be used to create decision aids that may assist therapists and people with a chronic disease in choosing a suitable activity tracker, and to facilitate use of these activity trackers in health care settings.

Trial registration
Ethical approval has been obtained from two medical-ethical committees (nr. 15-N-109, 15-N-48 and MEC-15-07).
Original languageEnglish
Article number64
Number of pages10
JournalPilot and Feasibility Studies
Publication statusPublished - 28 Nov 2017

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