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Barbara E. Ainsworth, Carl J. Caspersen, Charles E. Matthews, Louise C. Mâsse, Tom Baranowski, and Weimo Zhu


Assessment of physical activity using self-report has the potential for measurement error that can lead to incorrect inferences about physical activity behaviors and bias study results.


To provide recommendations to improve the accuracy of physical activity derived from self report.


We provide an overview of presentations and a compilation of perspectives shared by the authors of this paper and workgroup members.


We identified a conceptual framework for reducing errors using physical activity self-report questionnaires. The framework identifies 6 steps to reduce error: 1) identifying the need to measure physical activity, 2) selecting an instrument, 3) collecting data, 4) analyzing data, 5) developing a summary score, and 6) interpreting data. Underlying the first 4 steps are behavioral parameters of type, intensity, frequency, and duration of physical activities performed, activity domains, and the location where activities are performed. We identified ways to reduce measurement error at each step and made recommendations for practitioners, researchers, and organizational units to reduce error in questionnaire assessment of physical activity.


Self-report measures of physical activity have a prominent role in research and practice settings. Measurement error may be reduced by applying the framework discussed in this paper.

Open access

Emily N. Ussery, Geoffrey P. Whitfield, Janet E. Fulton, Deborah A. Galuska, Charles E. Matthews, Peter T. Katzmarzyk, and Susan A. Carlson

Background: High levels of sedentary behavior and physical inactivity increase the risk of premature mortality and several chronic diseases. Monitoring national trends and correlates of sedentary behavior and physical inactivity can help identify patterns of risk in the population over time. Methods: The authors used self-reported data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (2007/2008–2017/2018) to estimate trends in US adults’ mean daily sitting time, overall, and stratified by levels of leisure-time and multidomain physical activity, and in the joint prevalence of high sitting time (>8 h/d) and physical inactivity. Trends were tested using orthogonal polynomial contrasts. Results: Overall, mean daily sitting time increased by 19 minutes from 2007/2008 (332 min/d) to 2017/2018 (351 min/d) (P linear < .05; P quadratic < .05). The highest point estimate occurred in 2013/2014 (426 min/d), with a decreasing trend observed after this point (P linear < .05). Similar trends were observed across physical activity levels and domains, with one exception: an overall linear increase was not observed among sufficiently active adults. The mean daily sitting time was lowest among highly active adults compared with less active adults when using the multidomain physical activity measure. Conclusions: Sitting time among adults increased over the study period but decreased in recent years.

Open access

Pedro F. Saint-Maurice, David Berrigan, Geoffrey P. Whitfield, Kathleen B. Watson, Shreya Patel, Erikka Loftfield, Joshua N. Sampson, Janet E. Fulton, and Charles E. Matthews

Background: Surveillance of domain-specific physical activity in the United States is lacking. Thus, the authors describe domain-specific moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) in a nationwide sample of US adults. Methods: Participants from the AmeriSpeak panel (n = 2649; 20–75 y; 50% female) completed the Activities Completed Over Time in 24-Hours previous-day recall. The authors estimated average MVPA duration (in hours per day) overall and in major life domains by sex, age, race/ethnicity, and education. They also described the most commonly reported MVPAs and timing of MVPA during the day. Results: Across all life domains, participants reported an average of 2.5 hours per day in MVPA. Most MVPA was accumulated during work (50% of total, 1.2 h/d) and household activities (28%, 0.7 h/d) with less MVPA reported in leisure time (15%, 0.4 h/d). Time reported in MVPA varied by sex, and race/ethnicity (P < .05). Walking at work and for exercise, childcare, and walking for transportation were the most commonly reported domain-specific MVPAs. A greater proportion of MVPA took place in the morning (∼06:00 h) and evening (∼18:00 h). Conclusions: Work and household activities accounted for 78% of overall MVPA reported, while leisure-time MVPA accounted for only 15% of the total. Encouraging MVPA during leisure time and transportation remain important targets for promoting MVPA in US adults.

Open access

Brigid M. Lynch, Charles E. Matthews, Katrien Wijndaele, and on behalf of the Sedentary Behaviour Council of the International Society for Physical Activity and Health