Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from IJBNPA and BioMed Central.

Open Access Highly Accessed Review

Validity of the international physical activity questionnaire short form (IPAQ-SF): A systematic review

Paul H Lee1, Duncan J Macfarlane2, TH Lam1* and Sunita M Stewart13

Author Affiliations

1 FAMILY: A Jockey Club Initiative for a Harmonious Society, School of Public Health, Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine, University of Hong Kong, 21 Sassoon Road, Hong Kong

2 Institute of Human Performance, University of Hong Kong, 111-113 Pokfulam Road, Hong Kong

3 Department of Psychiatry, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, 5323 Harry Hines Boulevard, Dallas, Texas 75390, USA

For all author emails, please log on.

International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 2011, 8:115  doi:10.1186/1479-5868-8-115

Published: 21 October 2011

Abstract

Background

The International Physical Activity Questionnaire - Short Form (IPAQ-SF) has been recommended as a cost-effective method to assess physical activity. Several studies validating the IPAQ-SF have been conducted with differing results, but no systematic review of these studies has been reported.

Methods

The keywords "IPAQ", "validation", and "validity" were searched in PubMed and Scopus. Studies published in English that validated the IPAQ-SF against an objective physical activity measuring device, doubly labeled water, or an objective fitness measure were included.

Results

Twenty-three validation studies were included in this review. There was a great deal of variability in the methods used across studies, but the results were largely similar. Correlations between the total physical activity level measured by the IPAQ-SF and objective standards ranged from 0.09 to 0.39; none reached the minimal acceptable standard in the literature (0.50 for objective activity measuring devices, 0.40 for fitness measures). Correlations between sections of the IPAQ-SF for vigorous activity or moderate activity level/walking and an objective standard showed even greater variability (-0.18 to 0.76), yet several reached the minimal acceptable standard. Only six studies provided comparisons between physical activity levels derived from the IPAQ-SF and those obtained from objective criterion. In most studies the IPAQ-SF overestimated physical activity level by 36 to 173 percent; one study underestimated by 28 percent.

Conclusions

The correlation between the IPAQ-SF and objective measures of activity or fitness in the large majority of studies was lower than the acceptable standard. Furthermore, the IPAQ-SF typically overestimated physical activity as measured by objective criterion by an average of 84 percent. Hence, the evidence to support the use of the IPAQ-SF as an indicator of relative or absolute physical activity is weak.