How to assess physical activity? How to assess physical fitness?

Eur J Cardiovasc Prev Rehabil. 2005 Apr;12(2):102-14. doi: 10.1097/01.hjr.0000161551.73095.9c.


Regular aerobic physical activity (PA) increases exercise capacity and physical fitness (PF), which can lead to many health benefits. Accurate quantification of PA and PF becomes essential in terms of health outcome and effectiveness of intervention programmes. In this manuscript we present a review regarding the assessment of physical activity and fitness. Three types of PA assessment methods can be distinguished: criterion methods, objective methods and subjective methods. Criterion methods like doubly labelled water, indirect calorimetry and direct observation are the most reliable and valid measurements against which all other PA assessments methods should be validated, but they also hold important drawbacks. Objective PA assessment methods include activity monitors (pedometers and accelerometers) and heart rate monitoring. Finally, questionnaires and activity diaries are considered subjective methods. For the assessment of PF, we distinguish field tests and laboratory tests. The Eurofit for Adults is a test battery that is designed to assess health-related fitness of individuals, communities, sub-populations and populations. It is mainly used for evaluating the morphological component, the muscular component, the motor component and the cardio-respiratory component. In the laboratory, exercise capacity is preferentially assessed through maximal incremental exercise testing. Cardio-pulmonary exercise testing is a well-established procedure that provides a wealth of clinically diagnostic and prognostic information. The peak oxygen uptake is the gold standard in the assessment of exercise tolerance. When maximal exercise is contraindicated or not achievable, the VAT or the submaximal slopes provide reasonable alternatives.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Calorimetry, Indirect / instrumentation
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology
  • Evaluation Studies as Topic
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Exercise Tolerance / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Monitoring, Physiologic
  • Physical Fitness / physiology*
  • Primary Prevention / methods*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Sensitivity and Specificity