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Obes Res. 1999 Jan;7(1):23-33.

Energy expenditure determined by self-reported physical activity is related to body fatness.

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Department of Medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Meharry Medical College, Nashville, TN 37208, USA.



Activity self-reports are a commonly used tool in assessing daily physical activity (PA) and associated energy expenditure (EE). This study examined the effect of relative body fatness (%BF) on differences between self-reported and measured duration and associated EE in healthy adults.


Men and women (n = 115, age 38+/-9 years), ranging in %BF from 7.9% to 58.9%, spent two separate days (normal and exercise) in a whole-room indirect calorimeter where EE was measured. While in the room calorimeter, subjects reported the type, intensity, and duration of each performed PA. The Compendium of Physical Activity was used to calculate the energy cost of each reported activity. The EE of all self-reported activities (EEr) was categorized into four intensity levels, synchronized, and compared with EE from the room calorimeter (EEm).


With increasing %BF, subjects significantly overestimated duration of more strenuous activities (> or =4.5), while underestimating moderate activities (2.5 to 4.4 metabolic equivalents (METs)). Misreporting of duration and/or intensity caused an overestimation or underestimation of PA-associated EE at these levels. Reported EE sleep was lower than measured EE sleep, although both had similar durations. As a result, total EEr was similar to EEm.


Individual variability of daily total PA and associated EE generated from self-reports in adults is high. Persons with a higher %BF report duration and/or intensity of moderate to high levels of PA with lower accuracy than leaner individuals. We conclude using the Compendium of Physical Activity is not suitable for the accurate estimation of self-reported EE of AA in adults with a higher %BF.

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