Improving the accuracy of measuring physical activity in research | rowan today

Women between the ages of 40 and 60 face unique life and health challenges, from caring for children and older relatives to an increased risk of heart disease, which rises dramatically as women reach menopause. Women in this age range also experience a decrease in physical activity not seen in men of the same age, said Danielle Arigo, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at College of Science and Mathematics.

Today, thanks to a new grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Arigo is continuing his NIH-funded research to understand barriers to physical activity, as well as effective ways to promote physical activity in this population.

Arigo’s latest study, “Predictors of responsiveness to physical activity measurement in middle-aged women at high risk for CVD: a review of 7 studies,” builds on another ongoing funded project by the NIH in which Arigo and Dr. Andrea Lobo (Department of Computer Science at Rowan University) designed and tested Tailored physical activity interventions for middle-aged women using digital health tools like websites and mobile apps. It also stems directly from Arigo’s work with Germany Bayreuth Humboldt Center of International Excellencein collaboration with Dr. Laura König (University of Bayreuth).

Now, Arigo aims to determine how the introduction of physical activity monitoring as part of a research study affects the amount of physical activity a person performs. For example, many studies ask people to wear a Fitbit or pedometer and answer questions about their physical activity for several days in a row.

“If you’re not used to wearing a fitness tracker (or thinking about your physical activity throughout the day), starting to wear a tracker and knowing you’re in a study may actually temporarily change your behavior,” Arigo said. . “We don’t know how long the effect lasts. We do not know for whom it is the most powerful. If part of what you’re capturing is this reaction to the introduction of the measure, you’re potentially biasing your whole assessment because you’re going to have an increase in physical activity on the first day or two.

This temporary increase in activity can skew search data, but by how much? To determine the impact of wearing a physical activity tracker in the research study, Arigo will evaluate seven sets of data. Some datasets are publicly available and nationally representative, like the National Health Examination Survey, and others come from clinical trials at universities like Drexel and Penn State.

By examining these numbers in more depth, Arigo will be able to measure the difference in activity between the first days of the study and the end. Then, it will determine whether specific situations produce more of a responsiveness effect, such as certain devices, certain search contexts, or more motivated people.

Once Arigo is able to determine how much extra activity people are doing during the first few days of activity monitoring, she can then make recommendations to mitigate the effect if it is negatively impacting research findings.

“The ultimate goal is to figure out if that’s a problem,” Arigo said, “and if so, how do you prevent it from happening or fix it in the background, statistically, in your analyses.”

Arigo speculates that such a recommendation might be to educate study participants about the likelihood that wearing a physical activity tracker might change their behavior.

“We hope this can spark some interest in this population and how we measure their behavior in these types of studies,” Arigo said, “but also how we talk to them about their participation in these types of studies. studies or their participation in community physical activity programs. The greatest involvement in the real world is helping people understand how they interact with devices and also interact with different contexts.”

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