Physical Activity Surveillance Methods Need Improvement

Study finds self-reported data on physical activity often paints inaccurate picture
By Jane Parry
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Feb. 15 (HealthDay News) -- Relying on self-reported data to study disparities in physical activity can produce misleading information about population-wide trends, and surveillance should be revised to use more objective methods of data collection, according to research published online Feb. 10 in the American Journal of Public Health.

Sandra A. Ham, of the University of Chicago, and Barbara E. Ainsworth, Ph.D., of Arizona State University in Mesa, used the 2003 to 2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey's accelerometry data and self-reported data from the Healthy People 2010 Midcourse Review to look at disparities in physical activity.

The accelerometry data revealed that Mexican-Americans were more active than their non-Hispanic black and white counterparts. The two types of data reflected differing results, with groups defined by race/ethnicity and educational attainment closer in terms of level of physical activity according to the accelerometry data than the self-reported data.

"Our findings are consistent with other studies of accelerometer data, with the Hispanic paradox, and with previously identified issues regarding self-report data on physical activity in surveillance systems," the authors write. "Our study has implications for public health practice because it increases our understanding of physical activity disparities, which may lead to better and more cost-effective interventions. We hope that findings such as ours will encourage reevaluation of physical activity surveillance methods that depend on self-report data."

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