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An assessment of self-reported physical activity instruments in young people for population surveillance: Project ALPHA

Stuart JH Biddle1*, Trish Gorely12, Natalie Pearson13 and Fiona C Bull14

Author Affiliations

1 British Heart Foundation National Centre for Physical Activity & Health, School of Sport, Exercise & Health Sciences, Loughborough University, UK

2 Institute of Youth Sport, School of Sport, Exercise & Health Sciences, Loughborough University, UK

3 Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition Research, School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences, Deakin University, Australia

4 School of Population Health, The University of Western Australia, Australia

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International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 2011, 8:1  doi:10.1186/1479-5868-8-1

Published: 2 January 2011



The assessment of physical activity is an essential part of understanding patterns and influences of behaviour, designing interventions, and undertaking population surveillance and monitoring, but it is particularly problematic when using self-report instruments with young people. This study reviewed available self-report physical activity instruments developed for use with children and adolescents to assess their suitability and feasibility for use in population surveillance systems, particularly in Europe.


Systematic searches and review, supplemented by expert panel assessment.


Papers (n = 437) were assessed as potentially relevant; 89 physical activity measures were identified with 20 activity-based measures receiving detailed assessment. Three received support from the majority of the expert group: Physical Activity Questionnaire for Children/Adolescents (PAQ-C/PAQ-A), Youth Risk Behaviour Surveillance Survey (YRBS), and the Teen Health Survey.


Population surveillance of youth physical activity is strongly recommended and those involved in developing and undertaking this task should consider the three identified shortlisted instruments and evaluate their appropriateness for application within their national context. Further development and testing of measures suitable for population surveillance with young people is required.