To develop a brief, self-administered questionnaire that accurately measures functional capacity and assesses aspects of quality of life, 50 subjects undergoing exercise testing with measurement of peak oxygen uptake were studied. All subjects were questioned about their ability to perform a variety of common activities by an interviewer blinded to exercise test findings. A 12-item scale (the Duke Activity Status Index) was then developed that correlated well with peak oxygen uptake (Spearman correlation coefficient 0.80). To test this new index, an independent group of 50 subjects completed a self-administered questionnaire to determine functional capacity and underwent exercise testing with measurement of peak oxygen uptake. The Duke Activity Status Index correlated significantly (p less than 0.0001) with peak oxygen uptake (Spearman correlation coefficient 0.58) in this independent sample. The Duke Activity Status Index is a valid measure of functional capacity that can be obtained by self-administered questionnaire.