Page Banner

United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service


Location: Children's Nutrition Research Center

Title: Recommendations to improve the accuracy of estimates of physical activity derived from self report

item Ainsworth, Barbara
item Caspersen, Carl
item Matthews, Charles
item Mâsse, Louise
item Baranowski, Tom
item Zhu, Weimo

Submitted to: Journal of Physical Activity and Health
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/1/2011
Publication Date: 2/1/2012
Citation: Ainsworth, B.E., Caspersen, C.J., Matthews, C.E., Mâsse, L.C., Baranowski, T., Zhu, W. 2012. Recommendations to improve the accuracy of estimates of physical activity derived from self report. Journal of Physical Activity and Health. 9(Suppl 1):S76-S84.

Interpretive Summary: Objective measures of physical activity (e.g. accelerometers, step counters, heart rate monitors) have become the preferred method of physical activity measurement for research. Self report methods, alternatively, are still commonly used, but suffer from errors, some of which can be corrected. A six step process in the selection and use of measures is presented that identifies issues, which if addressed, could minimize these errors, and thereby enhance the validity and reliability of self report of physical activity.

Technical Abstract: 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.

Last Modified: 06/24/2017
Footer Content Back to Top of Page