Background: Physical activity (PA) is complex and a difficult behavior to assess as there is no ideal assessment tool(s) that can capture all contexts of PA. Therefore, it is important to understand how different assessment tools rank individuals. We examined the extent to which self-report and direct assessment PA tools yielded the same ranking of PA levels. Methods: PA levels were measured by the Modifiable Activity Questionnaire (MAQ) and pedometer at baseline among 855 white (W), African-American (AA), Japanese-American (JA), and Korean (K) men (mean age 45.3 years) in 3 geographic locations in the ERA JUMP study. Results: Korean men were more active than W, AA, and JA men, according to both the MAQ and pedometer (MAQ total PA [mean ± SD]: 41.6 ± 17.8, 20.9 ± 9.9, 20.0 ± 9.1, and 29.4 ± 10.3 metabolic equivalent [MET] hours/week, respectively; pedometer: 9584.4 ± 449.4, 8363.8 ± 368.6, 8930.3 ± 285.6, 8335.7 ± 368.6 steps/day, respectively). Higher levels of total PA in Korean men, as shown by MAQ, were due to higher occupational PA. Spearman correlations between PA levels reported on the MAQ and pedometer indicated positive associations ranging from rho = 0.29 to 0.42 for total activity, rho = 0.13 to 0.35 for leisure activity, and rho = 0.10 to 0.26 for occupational activity. Conclusions: The 2 assessment methods correlated and were complementary rather than interchangeable. The MAQ revealed why Korean men were more active. In some subpopulations it may be necessary to assess PA domains other than leisure and to use more than 1 assessment tool to obtain a more representative picture of PA levels.
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