A systematic literature review of reviews on techniques for physical activity measurement in adults: a DEDIPAC study

Kieran P Dowd, Robert Szeklicki, Marco A Minetto, Marie Murphy, Angela Polito, Ezio Ghigo, Hidde van der Ploeg, Ulf Ekelund, Janusz Maciaszek, Rafal Stemplewski, Maciej Tomczak, Alan Donnelly

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

220 Citations (Scopus)
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The links between increased participation in Physical Activity (PA) and improvements in health are well established. As this body of evidence has grown, so too has the search for measures of PA with high levels of methodological effectiveness (i.e. validity, reliability and responsiveness to change). The aim of this “review of reviews” was to provide a comprehensive overview of the methodological effectiveness of currently employed measures of PA, to aid researchers in their selection of an appropriate tool. A total of 63 review articles were included in this review, and the original articles cited by these reviews were included in order to extract detailed information on methodological effectiveness. Self-report measures of PA have been most frequently examined for methodological effectiveness, with highly variable findings identified across a broad range of behaviours. The evidence-base for the methodological effectiveness of objective monitors, particularly accelerometers/activity monitors, is increasing, with lower levels of variability observed for validity and reliability when compared to subjective measures. Unfortunately, responsiveness to change across all measures and behaviours remains under-researched, with limited information available. Other criteria beyond methodological effectiveness often influence tool selection, including cost and feasibility. However, researchers must be aware of the methodological effectiveness of any measure selected for use when examining PA. Although no “perfect” tool for the examination of PA in adults exists, it is suggested that researchers aim to incorporate appropriate objective measures, specific to the behaviours of interests, when examining PA in free-living environments.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-33
Number of pages33
JournalInternational Journal of Behavioural Nutrition and Physical Activity
Early online date8 Feb 2018
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 8 Feb 2018


  • Physical activity
  • Measurement
  • Assessment
  • Accelerometry
  • Questionnaires
  • Self-report
  • Motion sensors
  • Pedometers
  • Heart rate monitors
  • Adults


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