A novel scaling methodology to reduce the biases associated with missing data from commercial activity monitors

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Background Commercial physical activity monitors have wide utility in the assessment of physical activity in research and clinical settings, however, the removal of devices results in missing data and has the potential to bias study conclusions. This study aimed to evaluate methods to address missingness in data collected from commercial activity monitors. Methods This study utilised 1526 days of near complete data from 109 adults participating in a European weight loss maintenance study (NoHoW). We conducted simulation experiments to test a novel scaling methodology (NoHoW method) and alternative imputation strategies (overall/individual mean imputation, overall/individual multiple imputation, Kalman imputation and random forest imputation). Methods were compared for hourly, daily and 14-day physical activity estimates for steps, total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) and time in physical activity categories. In a second simulation study, individual multiple imputation, Kalman imputation and the NoHoW method were tested at different positions and quantities of missingness. Equivalence testing and root mean squared error (RMSE) were used to evaluate the ability of each of the strategies relative to the true data. Results The NoHoW method, Kalman imputation and multiple imputation methods remained statistically equivalent (p<0.05) for all physical activity metrics at the 14-day level. In the second simulation study, RMSE tended to increase with increased missingness. Multiple imputation showed the smallest RMSE for Steps and TDEE at lower levels of missingness (<19%) and the Kalman and NoHoW methods were generally superior for imputing time in physical activity categories. Conclusion Individual centred imputation approaches (NoHoW method, Kalman imputation and individual Multiple imputation) offer an effective means to reduce the biases associated with missing data from activity monitors and maximise data retention.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0235144
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume15
Issue number6
Number of pages18
ISSN1932-6203
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2020

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