Academic journal article Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport

Validation of Self-Report Measures of Physical Activity: A Case Study Using the New Zealand Physical Activity Questionnaire. (Measurement and Evaluation)

Academic journal article Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport

Validation of Self-Report Measures of Physical Activity: A Case Study Using the New Zealand Physical Activity Questionnaire. (Measurement and Evaluation)

Article excerpt

Accurate measurement of physical activity is fundamentally important in epidemiological research of physical activity behavior. A widely used telephone-based physical activity questionnaire was compared with other methods of administration and objective measures (pedometers and accelerometers) among 80 adults (43 women). The telephone questionnaire was comparable to both the self-administered form and international telephone-administered equivalent. Although moderate correlation coefficients with objective measures supported the use of the questionnaire, wide prediction intervals generated using Bland Altman methods highlighted large discrepancies between the measures, particularly in the moderate intensity category. These findings illustrate the limitations of correlation coefficients in validation studies and the inaccuracy of self-report questionnaires in measuring physical activity.

Key words: agreement, measurement


There is overwhelming evidence that physical inactivity is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis, and some cancers (Department of Health, 2004). As such, physical inactivity is considered a global health priority (World Health Organization, 2004). Accurate measurement of physical activity prevalence is fundamentally important to further understand health consequences and determinants of physical activity, evaluate the efficacy of interventions, and guide health policy (Booth, 2000).

For practical reasons, such as time and cost, self-report questionnaires are widely used to measure population level physical activity. However, with a proliferation of methodologically different physical activity questionnaires and scoring protocols, interstudy comparisons are problematic, and findings are inconsistent (Sarkin, Nichols, Sallis, & Callas, 2000). More recently, there has been an effort to coordinate a standardized international self-report tool (International Physical Activity Questionnaire [IPAQ]) to enable comparisons between countries, cultures, and specific population groups. These comparisons will enable researchers to further understand the complexity of the determinants and consequences of physical activity behavior (Booth, 2000).

In New Zealand, Sport and Recreation New Zealand (SPARC) in conjunction with the Ministry of Health have adapted the IPAQ forms for the New Zealand context (New Zealand Physical Activity Questionnaire [NZPAQ]). This tool has since been used in self-administered form (NZPAQ-W) for national surveys and has been identified as the preferred tool for physical activity measurement in the New Zealand adult population (Ministry of Health, 2005).

Despite their common use, there are several limitations of self-report tools, including inaccurate recall of activity intensity and duration, question comprehension and interpretation, and social desirability bias (Matthews, 2002; Sallis & Saelens, 2000). Few physical activity questionnaires adequately capture physical activities in nonleisure domains, such as occupation, household, transport, and other incidental activities. Understanding how accurately a self-report tool can measure physical activity is essential to enable appropriate interpretation of findings.

The validity of the NZPAQ short and long face-to-face interview form has been reported elsewhere using heart rate monitoring as an objective validity measure (McLean & Tobias, 2004). These findings, however, are limited due to limitations of the criterion measure. Heart rate is correlated with oxygen uptake and, therefore, can be used to estimate intensity of activity (Sallis & Owen, 1999). This physical activity measurement, however, has a number of serious limitations, including the effects that emotion, fitness level, caffeine, and age all have on heart rate, especially during light and moderate intensity activity (Sallis & Owen, 1999). The telephone version of the short form questionnaire is yet to be validated against objective measures of physical activity. …

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