Rectech Newsletter

R1: Free-Living Physical Activity Assessment of Wheelchair Users Using Off-the-Shelf Activity Monitors

One of the most important recent discoveries in exercise physiology and weight management is the utility of energy expenditure (EE) monitoring devices such as pedometers and accelerometers in providing people feedback regarding daily EE as an aid in attaining and maintaining healthy body weight. Unfortunately, there are no commercially available EE devices that are valid and reliable for manual wheelchair users (MWU). As a result, people who use wheelchairs as their primary mode of ambulation (e.g., spinal cord injury, cerebral palsy, spina bifida etc.) have no readily available technology to help calculate their daily EE in order to maintain an appropriate body weight or to lose weight. This project aims to address this barrier by developing and evaluating custom algorithms for three off-the-shelf activity monitors to estimate free-living physical activity and EE in MWUs. The project will be conducted in three phases. Phase I entails the development of EE prediction models for MWUs based upon three popular off-the-shelf activity monitors. Phase II entails the evaluation of the EE prediction models under semi-naturalistic and naturalistic conditions. Phase III entails the development of a web-based application and open-source API to allow MWUs and researchers to have access to accurate physical activity and EE information through the three activity monitors. We expect the study will result in valuable tools that facilitate better personal and clinical decisions on physical activity, energy balance, and healthier lifestyle for MWUs.