Background The number of clinical trials using wear-able physical activity trackers is increasing. The benefits of using consumer-level wearable activity trackers in clinical research are low costs, consumer friendliness and easy at-home monitoring in contrast to medical-grade accel-erometers. Paediatric studies could benefit from using activity trackers to monitor physical activity in real-life conditions. The objective of this analysis was to provide an overview over the use of physical activity trackers in clinical research.
Methods The National Library of Medicine’s PubMed database was searched for clinical trials on physical ac-tivity trackers using the following search term: ‘activity tracker’ [MeSH Terms] OR ‘activity tracker’[tw]. All of the resulting articles were reviewed and assessed regarding year of publication, study design, population, study du-ration, type of activity tracker, and inclusion of paediatric patients. Only original articles and published study proto-cols (without any publications of results) were included in this overview.
Results The PubMed search resulted in 79 results. Thirty publications were excluded due to publication type (sys-tematic reviews, commentaries and protocols for which subsequent publications of study results were available). Forty-nine publications (including 9 research protocols) were further assessed. The years of publication were 2010 (n=1), 2014 (n=2), 2015 (n=15, including 3 protocols), 2016 (n=24, including 3 protocols), and 2017 (n=7, in-cluding 3 protocols). Of the remaining 40 publications, 27 articles had a total population of 1–50 participants (me-dian 24 range 1–48), 5 articles 50–100 (median 58 range 57–87), 7 articles 100–1000 (median 396 range 130–806) and 1 article 1000+ (19 000 participants). Nine studies had a duration of 1–7 days (median: 2 days range 1–7), 10 studies lasted 1–4 weeks (median 3 weeks range 1–4), 7 studies lasted 4–12 weeks (median: 9 weeks range 5–12), 8 studies lasted 12–26 weeks (median 19 weeks range 13–26), 4 studies lasted 24–52 weeks (median 52 weeks range 30–52), and 1 study lasted 104 weeks. The duration was not available for one study. A Fitbit© tracker was most commonly used (29 of 49 studies), followed by Jawbone© (8/49), Garmin© (4/49), Withings© (4/49) and Nike© (3/49). Median wearing adherence was 64.8% (range: 31.7%–85%) in 14 studies (including 2 paediatric trials). Only 7 of 49 studies were in the paediatric setting, of which 2 were published protocols. A total number of 157 children (median 24 range: 16–87) participated in the 5 paediatric trials. The median age of the children was 8.9 years (range 3–17). A total number of 102 boys were included in the trials (65% of participants). Median wearing adherence in 2 paediatric studies was 78.5% (range 28%–98%)
Conclusion The use of wearable physical activity track-ers is becoming more popular in clinical research. This analysis revealed promising tracker wearing times with an overall median of 64.8% and a paediatric median of 78.5%. The adherence and feasibility of the use of activ-ity trackers should be further investigated in paediatric research. Physical activity trackers are a promising tool to obtain objective data on physical activity during real-life conditions in children with chronic diseases who partici-pate in clinical or pharmacological trials.
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