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Physical activity self-reports: past or future?
  1. Matteo C Sattler1,2,
  2. Barbara E Ainsworth3,
  3. Lars B Andersen4,
  4. Charlie Foster5,
  5. Maria Hagströmer6,
  6. Johannes Jaunig1,
  7. Paul Kelly7,
  8. Harold W Kohl III8,9,
  9. Charles E Matthews10,
  10. Pekka Oja11,
  11. Stephanie A Prince12,13,
  12. Mireille N M van Poppel1
  1. 1 Institute of Human Movement Science, Sport and Health, University of Graz, Graz, Austria
  2. 2 Nutrition Theme, NIHR Bristol Biomedical Research Centre, Bristol, UK
  3. 3 School of Kinesiology, Shanghai University of Sport, Shanghai, China
  4. 4 Department of Sport, Food and Natural Sciences, Faculty of Education, Arts and Sports, Western Norway University of Applied Sciences, Sogndal, Norway
  5. 5 Centre for Exercise, Nutrition and Health Sciences, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK
  6. 6 Division of Physiotherapy, Department of Neurobiology, Care Sciences and Society, Karolinska Institutet, Huddinge, Sweden
  7. 7 Physical Activity for Health Research Centre, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK
  8. 8 Department of Kinesiology and Health Education, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas, USA
  9. 9 School of Public Health, The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, Houston, Texas, USA
  10. 10 Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, National Cancer Institute, Rockville, Maryland, USA
  11. 11 UKK Institute for Health Promotion Research, Tampere, Finland
  12. 12 Centre for Surveillance and Applied Research, Public Health Agency of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
  13. 13 School of Epidemiology and Public Health, Faculty of Medicine, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
  1. Correspondence to Dr Matteo C Sattler, Institute of Human Movement Science, Sport and Health, University of Graz, 8010 Graz, Austria; matteo.sattler{at}

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The measurement of physical activity (PA) is fundamental to health-related research, practice and policy. For decades, self-report measures have provided unique insights into the role of PA for human health and society. In fact, studies, in which participants reported their behaviours—or the behaviours of others—using diaries, logs, questionnaires and recalls, have historically provided the evidence that underpins global PA guidelines.1 Self-reports have been used extensively in various settings, including population surveillance, observational and intervention studies and routine assessment as part of healthcare.

The field of PA measurement is rapidly evolving. We have a wealth of measurement instruments and achieved remarkable advancements in the use of device-based information such as raw accelerometry, novel algorithms for pattern recognition and worldwide initiatives for data harmonisation.2 3 The technological evolution has changed the practice of PA self-reports as well, and led to electronic surveys and ecological momentary assessments (EMAs) for the measurement of PA in natural environments and in ‘real time’.

Despite significant improvements, an established standard for the measurement of PA does not exist due to the complexity of the behaviour.4 PA is multifaceted and encompasses different domains (eg, leisure, occupation, transport, household), dimensions (eg, frequency, duration, intensity, …

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  • Contributors The work was initially conceived by MCS. Substantial contributions to the conception of the work were made by JJ and MvP. All authors contributed to the drafting, writing, and reviewing of the manuscript. Final approval of the version published was given by all authors.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests The content and views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Government of Canada.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.