Utility of pedometers for assessing physical activity: construct validity

Sports Med. 2004;34(5):281-91. doi: 10.2165/00007256-200434050-00001.


Valid assessment of physical activity is necessary to fully understand this important health-related behaviour for research, surveillance, intervention and evaluation purposes. This article is the second in a companion set exploring the validity of pedometer-assessed physical activity. The previous article published in Sports Medicine dealt with convergent validity (i.e. the extent to which an instrument's output is associated with that of other instruments intended to measure the same exposure of interest). The present focus is on construct validity. Construct validity is the extent to which the measurement corresponds with other measures of theoretically-related parameters. Construct validity is typically evaluated by correlational analysis, that is, the magnitude of concordance between two measures (e.g. pedometer-determined steps/day and a theoretically-related parameter such as age, anthropometric measures and fitness). A systematic literature review produced 29 articles published since > or =1980 directly relevant to construct validity of pedometers in relation to age, anthropometric measures and fitness. Reported correlations were combined and a median r-value was computed. Overall, there was a weak inverse relationship (median r = -0.21) between age and pedometer-determined physical activity. A weak inverse relationship was also apparent with both body mass index and percentage overweight (median r = -0.27 and r = -0.22, respectively). Positive relationships regarding indicators of fitness ranged from weak to moderate depending on the fitness measure utilised: 6-minute walk test (median r = 0.69), timed treadmill test (median r = 0.41) and estimated maximum oxygen uptake (median r = 0.22). Studies are warranted to assess the relationship of pedometer-determined physical activity with other important health-related outcomes including blood pressure and physiological parameters such as blood glucose and lipid profiles. The aggregated evidence of convergent validity (presented in the previous companion article) and construct validity herein provides support for considering simple and inexpensive pedometers in both research and practice.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review
  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Anthropometry
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Monitoring, Ambulatory / instrumentation*
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Physical Fitness / physiology
  • Physiology / instrumentation*
  • Reproducibility of Results