Accurate, objective measurement is important for understanding adolescents' physical activity (PA) behaviour. When using accelerometry to objectively measure PA, a decision must be made regarding how frequently data is recorded (i.e., epoch length). The purpose of this study was to examine i) PA bout length, and ii) the effect of variations in accelerometer epoch length on PA estimates during physical education (PE) and leisure time in adolescent boys.
Year 9 boys (N = 133; mean age ±SD = 14.36±0.48 years) wore accelerometers during two PE lessons, and for a period of seven consecutive days. Data were reintegrated from 1s into longer periods of 2, 5, 10, 30, and 60 seconds. ANOVAs were used to test for differences in PA estimates between epochs in leisure time and PE.
The mean length of vigorous PA (VPA) bouts was 3.5±2.0 seconds for PE and 2.5±1.7 seconds for leisure time, and mean length of moderate PA (MPA) bouts was 2.3±0.5 seconds for PE and 2.9±0.5 seconds for leisure time. During PE, estimates of MVPA, MPA, and light PA (LPA) increased as epoch increased from 1 second to 60 seconds, while VPA and sedentary behaviour estimates decreased. During leisure time, estimates of all PA intensities decreased as epoch increased from 1 second to 60 seconds, with the exception of sedentary behaviour, which increased as epoch length increased.
The context in which PA occurs can influence PA bout length measurement and the effect of variations in epoch length on PA estimates. Researchers measuring PA with accelerometry should be conscious of the possible influence of context on PA estimates.