Criterion validity of two physical activity and one sedentary time questionnaire against accelerometry in a large cohort of adults and older adults

Edvard H. Sagelv*, Laila A. Hopstock, Jonas Johansson, Bjørge H. Hansen, Soren Brage, Alexander Horsch, Ulf Ekelund, Bente Morseth

*Corresponding author for this work

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Objectives: We compared the ability of physical activity and sitting time questionnaires (PAQ) for ranking individuals versus continuous volume calculations (physical activity level (PAL), metabolic equivalents of task (MET), sitting hours) against accelerometry measured physical activity as our criterion. Methods: Participants in a cohort from the Tromsø Study completed three questionnaires; (1) The Saltin-Grimby Physical Activity Level Scale (SGPALS) (n=4040); (2) The Physical Activity Frequency, Intensity and Duration (PAFID) questionnaire (n=5902)) calculated as MET-hours·week-1 and (3) The International Physical Activity questionnaire (IPAQ) short-form sitting question (n=4896). We validated the questionnaires against the following accelerometry (Actigraph wGT3X-BT) estimates: vector magnitude counts per minute, steps·day-1, time (minutes·day-1) in sedentary behaviour, light physical activity, moderate and vigorous physical activity (MVPA) non-bouted and ≥10 min bouted MVPA. Results: Ranking of physical activity according to the SGPALS and quartiles (Q) of MET-hours·week-1 from the PAFID were both positively associated with accelerometry estimates of physical activity (p<0.001) but correlations with accelerometry estimates were weak (SGPALS (PAL): r=0.11 to 0.26, p<0.001) and weak-to-moderate (PAFID: r=0.39 to 0.44, p<0.01). There was 1 hour of accelerometry measured sedentary time from Q1 to Q4 in the IPAQ sitting question (p<0.001) and also weak correlations (r=0.22, p<0.01). Conclusion: Ranking of physical activity levels measured with PAQs appears to have higher validity than energy expenditure calculations. Self-reported sedentary time poorly reflects accelerometry measured sedentary time. These two PAQs can be used for ranking individuals into different physical activity categories supporting previous studies using these instruments when assessing associations with health outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere000661
JournalBMJ Open Sport and Exercise Medicine
Issue number1
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - 26. Feb 2020


  • accelerometer
  • epidemiology
  • medicine
  • physical activity
  • sitting time


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