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Background:

To describe the lessons learned after 10 years of use of the International Physical Activity Questionnaire (IPAQ) in Brazil and Colombia, with special emphasis on recommendations for future research in Latin America using this instrument.

Methods:

We present an analytical commentary, based on data from a review of the Latin American literature, as well as expert consultation and the authors' experience in administering IPAQ to over 43,000 individuals in Brazil and Colombia between 1998 and 2008.

Results:

Validation studies in Latin America suggest that the IPAQ has high reliability and moderate criteria validity in comparison with accelerometers. Cognitive interviews suggested that the occupational and housework sections of the long IPAQ lead to confusion among respondents, and there is evidence that these sections generate overestimated scores of physical activity. Because the short IPAQ considers the 4 physical activity domains altogether, people tend to provide inaccurate answers to it as well.

Conclusions:

Use of the leisure-time and transport sections of the long IPAQ is recommended for surveillance and studies aimed at documenting physical activity levels in Latin America. Use of the short IPAQ should be avoided, except for maintaining consistency in surveillance when it has already been used at baseline.

Hallal is with the Post-graduate Program in Epidemiology, Federal University of Pelotas, Brazil. Gomez and Mosquera are with the Health Division, Fundacion FES Social, Bogota, Colombia. Parra is with the Prevention Research Center in St. Louis, George Warren Brown School of Social Work, Washington University in St. Louis. Lobelo is with the CDC/ WHO Collaborating Center for Physical Activity and Health Promotion, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA. Florindo is with the Dept of Physical Activity Sciences, University of Sao Paulo, Brazil. Reis is with the Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Paraná, Curitiba, Brazil, and the Universidade Federal do Paraná, Curitiba, Brazil. Pratt is with the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA. Sarmiento is with the Dept of Social Medicine, University of the Andes, Bogotá, Colombia.