Measurement of Active and Sedentary Behavior in Context of Large Epidemiologic Studies

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2018 Feb;50(2):266-276. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000001428.


Introduction/purpose: To assess the utility of measurement methods that may be more accurate and precise than traditional questionnaire-based estimates of habitual physical activity and sedentary behavior we compared the measurement properties of a past year questionnaire (AARP) and more comprehensive measures: an internet-based 24-h recall (ACT24), and a variety of estimates from an accelerometer (ActiGraph).

Methods: Participants were 932 adults (50-74 yr) in a 12-month study that included reference measures of energy expenditure from doubly labeled water (DLW) and active and sedentary time via activPAL.

Results: Accuracy at the group level (mean differences) was generally better for both ACT24 and ActiGraph than the AARP questionnaire. The AARP accuracy for energy expenditure ranged from -4% to -13% lower than DLW, but its accuracy was poorer for physical activity duration (-48%) and sedentary time (-18%) versus activPAL. In contrast, ACT24 accuracy was within 3% to 10% of DLW expenditure measures and within 1% to 3% of active and sedentary time from activPAL. For ActiGraph, accuracy for energy expenditure was best for the Crouter 2-regression method (-2% to -7%), and for active and sedentary time the 100 counts per minute cutpoint was most accurate (-1% to 2%) at the group level. One administration of the AARP questionnaire was significantly correlated with long-term average from the reference measures (ρTX = 0.16-0.34) overall, but four ACT24 recalls had higher correlations (ρTX = 0.48-0.60), as did 4 d of ActiGraph assessment (ρTX = 0.54-0.87).

Conclusions: New exposure assessments suitable for use in large epidemiologic studies (ACT24, ActiGraph) were more accurate and had higher correlations than a traditional questionnaire. Use of better more comprehensive measures in future epidemiologic studies could yield new etiologic discoveries and possibly new opportunities for prevention.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Actigraphy / methods*
  • Aged
  • Energy Metabolism*
  • Epidemiologic Studies
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Sedentary Behavior*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires