Recommendations to Improve the Accuracy of Estimates of Physical Activity Derived From Self Report

in Journal of Physical Activity and Health


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.

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Ainsworth is with the Program in Exercise and Wellness, School of Nutrition and Health Promotion, Arizona State University, Phoenix, AZ. Caspersen is with the Epidemiology and Statistics Branch, Division of Diabetes Translation, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA. Matthews is with the Nutritional Epidemiology Branch, Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, MD. Mâsse is with the Dept of Pediatrics, School of Population and Public Health, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Baranowski is with the Children’s Nutrition Research Center, Dept of Pediatrics, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX. Zhu is with the Dept of Kinesiology and Community Health, College of Applied Health Sciences, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.