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Evaluation of physiological workload assessment methods using heart rate and accelerometry for a smart wearable system

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Work metabolism (WM) can be accurately estimated by oxygen consumption (VO2), which is commonly assessed by heart rate (HR) in field studies. However, the VO2–HR relationship is influenced by individual capacity and activity characteristics. The purpose of this study was to evaluate three models for estimating WM compared with indirect calorimetry, during simulated work activities. The techniques were: the HR-Flex model; HR branched model, combining HR with hip-worn accelerometers (ACC); and HR + arm-leg ACC model, combining HR with wrist- and thigh-worn ACC. Twelve participants performed five simulated work activities and three submaximal tests. The HR + arm-leg ACC model had the overall best performance with limits of agreement (LoA) of −3.94 and 2.00 mL/min/kg, while the HR-Flex model had −5.01 and 5.36 mL/min/kg and the branched model, −6.71 and 1.52 mL/min/kg. In conclusion, the HR + arm-leg ACC model should, when feasible, be preferred in wearable systems for WM estimation.

Practitioner Summary: Work with high energy demand can impair employees’ health and life quality. Three models were evaluated for estimating work metabolism during simulated tasks. The model combining heart rate, wrist- and thigh-worn accelerometers showed the best accuracy. This is, when feasible, suggested for wearable systems to assess work metabolism.
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Keywords: Heart rate; estimation models; motion sensing; risk assessment; wearable sensors; work metabolism

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Division of Ergonomics, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Huddinge, Sweden; 2: Institute of Environmental Medicine, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden; 3: Swedish School of Textiles, University of Borås, Borås, Sweden; 4: Åstrand Laboratory of Work Physiology, The Swedish School of Sport and Health, Stockholm, Sweden

Publication date: May 4, 2019

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