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The present study describes the development of a triaxial accelerometer (TA) and a portable data processing unit for the assessment of daily physical activity. The TA is composed of three orthogonally mounted uniaxial piezoresistive accelerometers and can be used to register accelerations covering the amplitude and frequency ranges of human body acceleration. Interinstrument and test-retest experiments showed that the offset and the sensitivity of the TA were equal for each measurement direction and remained constant on two measurement days. Transverse sensitivity was significantly different for each measurement direction, but did not influence accelerometer output (<3% of the sensitivity along the main axis). The data unit enables the on-line processing of accelerometer output to a reliable estimator of physical activity over eight-day periods. Preliminary evaluation of the system in 13 male subjects during standardized activities in the laboratory demonstrated a significant relationship between accelerometer output and energy expenditure due to physical activity, the standard reference for physical activity (r=0.89). Shortcomings of the system are its low sensitivity to sedentary activities and the inability to register static exercise. The validity of the system for the assessment of normal daily physical activity and specific activities outside the laboratory should be studied in free-living subjects.