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Sandra A. Ham, Caroline A. Macera, Deborah A. Jones, Barbara E. Ainsworth and Kathleen M. Turczyn

Purpose:

To explore among demographic groups the differences in prevalence estimates of physical activity that may occur as a result of differences in survey design characteristics, including question wording, placement, and examples of activities.

Methods:

We compared responses to similar physical activity instruments administered to large samples of adults in 1999 (n = 9,775), 2000 (n = 32,374), and 1999–2000 (n = 7,529). The questions assessed participation in non-occupational physical activity at vigorous and moderate intensities. Surveys used in-person or telephone interviews.

Results:

The prevalence of recommended levels of physical activity (i.e., ≥3 days and ≥20 min vigorous activities or ≥5 days and ≥30 min moderate activities) varied 10% across 3 surveys. Although survey design characteristics varied, higher prevalence was associated with the use of examples to measure multiple domains of activity and question order.

Conclusions:

Measuring multiple domains is important for assessing health-related physical activity. These results suggest that physical activity measurement varies with question and survey design characteristics.

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Diana L. Jones, Deborah Tannehill, Mary O’Sullivan and Sandra A. Stroot

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Michelle M. Yore, Sandra A. Ham, Barbara E. Ainsworth, Caroline A. Macera, Deborah A. Jones and Harold W. Kohl III

Background:

In 2001, the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) included a new occupational physical activity (PA) question. This article evaluates the reliability of this survey question.

Methods:

Forty-six subjects were followed for 3 wk, answered 3 PA surveys by telephone, and completed daily PA logs for 1 wk. Kappa statistics determined the reliability of occupational activities (sitting/standing, walking, and heavy lifting). A descriptive analysis compared the time in specific occupational activities.

Results:

Eighty percent of the respondents reported “mostly sitting or standing” at work; and test–retest reliability was moderate (k = 0.40 to 0.45). The occupationally inactive sat/stood for 85% (mean hours = 5.6) of the workday, whereas the occupationally active sat/stood for 53% (mean hours = 3.9) of the workday.

Conclusions:

The BRFSS occupational activity question has moderate reliability, distinguishes between occupationally active and inactive persons, and can be used in surveillance systems to estimate adult occupational PA.