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JOURNAL ARTICLE

Guide to the assessment of physical activity: Clinical and research applications: a scientific statement from the American Heart Association

Scott J Strath, Leonard A Kaminsky, Barbara E Ainsworth, Ulf Ekelund, Patty S Freedson, Rebecca A Gary, Caroline R Richardson, Derek T Smith, Ann M Swartz
Circulation 2013 November 12, 128 (20): 2259-79
24126387
The deleterious health consequences of physical inactivity are vast, and they are of paramount clinical and research importance. Risk identification, benchmarks, efficacy, and evaluation of physical activity behavior change initiatives for clinicians and researchers all require a clear understanding of how to assess physical activity. In the present report, we have provided a clear rationale for the importance of assessing physical activity levels, and we have documented key concepts in understanding the different dimensions, domains, and terminology associated with physical activity measurement. The assessment methods presented allow for a greater understanding of the vast number of options available to clinicians and researchers when trying to assess physical activity levels in their patients or participants. The primary outcome desired is the main determining factor in the choice of physical activity assessment method. In combination with issues of feasibility/practicality, the availability of resources, and administration considerations, the desired outcome guides the choice of an appropriate assessment tool. The decision matrix, along with the accompanying tables, provides a mechanism for this selection that takes all of these factors into account. Clearly, the assessment method adopted and implemented will vary depending on circumstances, because there is no single best instrument appropriate for every situation. In summary, physical activity assessment should be considered a vital health measure that is tracked regularly over time. All other major modifiable cardiovascular risk factors (diabetes mellitus, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, obesity, and smoking) are assessed routinely. Physical activity status should also be assessed regularly. Multiple physical activity assessment methods provide reasonably accurate outcome measures, with choices dependent on setting-specific resources and constraints. The present scientific statement provides a guide to allow professionals to make a goal-specific selection of a meaningful physical activity assessment method.

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