Background: In epidemiological research, physical activity is usually assessed by questionnaires. Questionnaires are suitable for large study populations since they are relatively inexpensive and not very time consuming. However, questionnaire information is by definition subjective and prone to recall bias, especially among elderly subjects. The Modified Baecke Questionnaire, developed by Voorrips and coworkers, measures habitual physical activity in the elderly. The questionnaire includes questions on household activities, sports, and leisure time activities, over a time period of one year. The Modified Baecke Questionnaire results in a score to classify people as high, moderate, or low in daily physical activity, based on tertiles.
Methods: The validity of the Modified Baecke Questionnaire score was assessed among 21 elderly men and women using the doubly labeled water method as the reference criterion. This method is considered to be the gold standard for measuring energy expenditure in free-living individuals. Energy expenditure on physical activity is estimated by the ratio of total energy expenditure measured by the doubly labeled water method and resting metabolic rate measured by indirect calorimetry. This ratio is called the physical activity ratio.
Results: The Spearman correlation coefficient between the questionnaire score and the physical activity ratio (PAR) was 0.54 (95% CI 0.22-0.66). Correct classification by the questionnaire occurred in 71% of participants who were in the lowest tertile of PAR, in 14% of participants in the middle tertile, and in 43% of participants in the highest tertile. Subjects were not wrongly classified in an opposite tertile.
Conclusion: The validity of the Modified Baecke Questionnaire is fair-to-moderate. This study shows that the questionnaire can correctly classify individuals as low or high active, but does a poor job for moderately active individuals.