Can sedentary adults accurately recall the intensity of their physical activity?

Glen E. Duncan, Sumner J. Sydeman, Michael G. Perri, Marian C. Limacher, A. Daniel Martin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

107 Scopus citations


Background: Physical activity, in particular vigorous activity (i.e., ≥6 METs), lowers mortality from chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease (CVD). The 7-Day Physical Activity Recall (PAR), a self-administered activity log (LOG), and heart rate monitoring (HR) were used to quantify activity patterns among sedentary adults. We hypothesized that individuals in this population could accurately estimate the duration, but not the intensity, of their activity. Methods. Sedentary adults (n = 94, 47.8 ± 7.1 years) completed two PARs 1 week apart and underwent HR monitoring while completing a LOG for 1 day during the PAR assessment interval. Results. The relationship between PARs (kcal · kg-1 · day-1) was significant (r = 0.80, 95% CI 0.68-0.87) among individuals (n = 63) reporting "typical" activity patterns and among all individuals (n = 94) reporting "typical" and "not typical" activity patterns combined (r = 0.44, 95% CI 0.26-0.59). Quantity of moderate activity was greater (P = 0.0001) on PAR and LOG compared to that measured by HR. Quantity of hard (vigorous) activity was also greater (P = 0.019) on LOG compared to that measured by HR. Conclusions. Sedentary adults tend to overestimate the intensity of their activity, specifically for moderate activity. Furthermore, the aerobic capacity of our sedentary adult sample (about 7.3 METs) suggests that the definition of a threshold intensity level of activity necessary to reduce mortality from CVD should be reexamined, because a value of ≥6 METs appears to be too high in this population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number90847
Pages (from-to)18-26
Number of pages9
JournalPreventive Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2001


  • Activities of daily living
  • Exercise
  • Leisure activities
  • Oxygen consumption
  • Questionnaires

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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