Background: The International Physical Activity Questionnaire-Short Form (IPAQ-SF) has been recommended as a cost-effective method to assess physical activity. Several studies validating the IPAQ-SF have been conducted with differing results, but no systematic review of these studies has been reported.
Methods: The keywords "IPAQ", "validation", and "validity" were searched in PubMed and Scopus. Studies published in English that validated the IPAQ-SF against an objective physical activity measuring device, doubly labeled water, or an objective fitness measure were included.
Results: Twenty-three validation studies were included in this review. There was a great deal of variability in the methods used across studies, but the results were largely similar. Correlations between the total physical activity level measured by the IPAQ-SF and objective standards ranged from 0.09 to 0.39; none reached the minimal acceptable standard in the literature (0.50 for objective activity measuring devices, 0.40 for fitness measures). Correlations between sections of the IPAQ-SF for vigorous activity or moderate activity level/walking and an objective standard showed even greater variability (-0.18 to 0.76), yet several reached the minimal acceptable standard. Only six studies provided comparisons between physical activity levels derived from the IPAQ-SF and those obtained from objective criterion. In most studies the IPAQ-SF overestimated physical activity level by 36 to 173 percent; one study underestimated by 28 percent.
Conclusions: The correlation between the IPAQ-SF and objective measures of activity or fitness in the large majority of studies was lower than the acceptable standard. Furthermore, the IPAQ-SF typically overestimated physical activity as measured by objective criterion by an average of 84 percent. Hence, the evidence to support the use of the IPAQ-SF as an indicator of relative or absolute physical activity is weak.