Background: Physical activity is associated with a reduced risk of several chronic diseases. Although there is considerable published research on methods to assess current or recent recreational physical activity, there are few short, self-administered questionnaires designed to assess long-term physical activity.
Methods: We developed a one-page questionnaire to capture data on usual recreational physical activity during the preceding 10 years. This questionnaire was used in a cohort study of adults age 50 to 75 years residing in western Washington state. To examine the measurement characteristics of this questionnaire, we compared metabolic equivalent task (MET)-hours derived from this short questionnaire to MET-hours estimated from a detailed comparison interview in a subsample (n = 217) and to current body mass index (BMI; weight in kilograms/height in square meters) in the full sample of 57,811 persons.
Results: The age- and sex-adjusted partial Pearson correlation coefficient for total recreational activity between the 2 instruments was 0.68. In the full cohort, BMI was inversely correlated with physical activity as assessed by the one-page questionnaire (r = -0.22).
Conclusions: This short questionnaire measures long-term physical activity at a level of precision appropriate to the examination of associations in studies of physical activity and disease.