The measurement of patient activity over prolonged periods has been attempted with accelerometer-based devices, but these summate total acceleration and deceleration over time periods, are difficult to relate to recognizable activities and are influenced by passive movement. We describe the development of a portable monitor of ambulation. This logs posture (sitting, standing and lying) and number and vigour of steps in real time over prolonged periods, usually 24 h. This is based on a system of position sensors and an accelerometer which is sampled when the subject is standing. Data are processed through an interface and stored on a Psion Series 3 `palm top' computer. The system has been validated against observation, and the relationship of activity to disability in rheumatoid arthritis explored.