Dietary assessment and physical activity measurements toolkit

Choosing a physical activity assessment method


The aim of the interactive decision matrix is to haelp researchers tease the aspect(s) of physical activity that are relevant to the research question. Physical activity is a complex behaviour and elucidating the exact aspects of interest is key but even a single aspect may mean different things to different researchers e.g. intensity can be viewed from both a biomechanical or physiological perspective.

The methods in the decision matrix are confined to those most commonly used in population and health research, so observation is not included. A number of practical considerations including resources, population characteristics and data analysis will ultimately dictate which method can be used. If the ‘best method(s)’ is not feasible it may mean compromising and choosing a ‘less good method(s)’. Generally there is an inverse relationship between the feasibility of the method and the validity of the method. There may be instances that due to the study budget or study population it is necessary to re-visit the research question and primary outcome measure, to ensure they are compatible with methods which are feasible.


For each of the diet and physical activity assessment methods there is a detailed section on the toolkit which should be read in conjunction with the matrices.
Users are advised to refer to the specific pages for each assessment method as well as reading the information provided in the matrices. 

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