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Physical activity: measurement in mid-life women


Address for correspondence:
Dr Janet Guthrie
Office for Gender and Health
Department of Psychiatry
The University of Melbourne
Charles Connibere Building
Victoria 3050


Objectives. To review methods of assessing physical activity, and to compare two different questionnaires that were administered in the Melbourne Women's Midlife Health Project (MWMHP).

Methods. Cross-sectional and subsequent longitudinal population-based study of Australian-born women who were aged 45–55 at baseline. Self-administered modified form of the Minnesota Leisure-Time Physical Activity questionnaire and interviewer-administered short physical activity question.

Results. Two hundred and ninety-two women completed the Minnesota Leisure-Time Physical Activity questionnaire at both cross-sectional and 3rd year of follow-up (L3) and there was no difference in the total mean time spent exercising at both phases [5.9 (SD, 5.7) and 5.8 (SD, 5.0) hours per week, respectively]. The responses to the two questionnaires were significantly associated (β = −0.89, SE 0.17, p < 0.0005). Using the Minnesota Leisure-Time Physical Activity questionnaire between the cross-sectional and L3 phases, 10% of the women increased the time they spent exercising by 5 h per week and 10% decreased it by the same amount. Using the short exercise question, 12% of women decreased their participation by two or more sessions per week and 14% increased their participation by this amount between the cross-sectional and L3 phases.

Conclusion. In this cohort of mid-life women the short exercise question was comparable in terms of measuring participation and change in physical activity with the more complex Minnesota Leisure-Time Physical Activity questionnaire.