Can the intensity of physical activity be accurately measured in older adults using questionnaires?

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Objectives: This study assessed the accuracy of two questionnaires for measuring the duration of physical activity (PA) by intensity compared to an objective measure in older adults. Design: Cross-sectional observation Methods: A total of 169 (female = 43.8%) participants aged 73–78 years (mean: 75.1 y; SD: 1.3) wore a SenseWear™ Armband (SWA) for seven-days and reported the duration of PA by intensity with a Physical Activity Recall (PAR) questionnaire and the Active Australia Survey (AAS). In addition, the duration of moderate-to-vigorous-PA (MVPA) and overall active time, weighted for intensity (Total PA; MET: min/week) was assessed. Univariate general linear models were used to compare the questionnaire and SWA measures of PA while controlling for age, sex and education. Results: The PAR was associated with SWA moderate intensity PA (b = 0.19; 95% CI 0.03–0.35), MVPA (b = 0.19; 95% CI 0.02–0.37) and Total PA (b = 0.33; 95% CI 0.11–0.55). Although significant correlations were present, the models explained a small proportion of the variance in the SWA variables. The AAS was not associated with the SWA for any PA outcome. There was also significant under-reporting of PA duration for both questionnaires in comparison to the SWA. Conclusions: The PAR questionnaire may be suitable for determining the effect of greater levels of PA on health outcomes. However, neither questionnaire can be considered valid in determining the duration of PA divided by intensity. In addition, questionnaire and objectively measured PA are not equivalent and absolute measures of PA derived from questionnaires should be interpreted with caution.




Northey, J. M., Rattray, B., Pumpa, K. L., Smee, D. J., Welvaert, M., Anstey, K. J., & Cherbuin, N. (2019). Can the intensity of physical activity be accurately measured in older adults using questionnaires? Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, 22(7), 803–807.

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