The Validity of the Stanford Seven-Day Physical Activity Recall in Young Adults


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise:
BASIC SCIENCES: Epidemiology

WASHBURN, R. A., D. J. JACOBSEN, B. J. SONKO, J. O. HILL, and J. E. DONNELLY. The Validity of the Stanford Seven-Day Physical Activity Recall in Young Adults. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc., Vol. 35, No. 8, pp. 1374–1380, 2003.

Purpose: To evaluate the criterion validity of the 7-Day Physical Activity Recall (7D-PAR) and factors associated with reporting error, in a sample of moderately overweight, young adult men and women.

Methods: Average total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) and physical activity energy expenditure (PAEE) from the 7D-PAR were compared with the same parameters assessed by doubly labeled water in 17 men, age = 23.9 ± 3.8 yr, and 29 women, age = 23.3 ± 4.6 yr, who volunteered to participate in a 16-month supervised aerobic exercise trial. PAEE was estimated from the 7D-PAR and from DLW [0.9 * TDEE −resting metabolic rate (RMR) (indirect calorimetry)]. In addition, peak oxygen uptake and percent body fat were obtained

Results: No significant differences in TDEE (kJ·d−1) were noted between the 7D-PAR (11,825 ± 1,779) and DLW (11,922 ± 2,516) for the complete sample (N = 46) or for men (7D-PAR = 13,198 ± 1,638, DLW = 13,885 ± 2,754) or women (7D-PAR = 11,018 ± 1,323, DLW = 10,771 ± 1,457. The mean PAEE from the 7D-PAR was not different from DLW in the total sample (7D-PAR = 3286 ± 502, DLW = 3508 ± 1863) as well as in men (7D-PAR = 3650 ± 490, DLW = 3989 ± 2461) and women (3073 ± 377, DLW = 3223 ± 1360). In a regression model, PAEE, peak oxygen uptake, gender and percent fat accounted for 86% of the reporting error in total daily energy expenditure when using the 7D-PAR.

Conclusion: The 7D-PAR provided a reasonable estimate of both the mean TDEE and PAEE in this sample; however, estimates of energy expenditure on an individual basis using the PAR were subject to considerable error.

A number of physical activity surveys are currently available for use in epidemiologic studies of the association of physical activity and risk for chronic disease (21). One survey, the Stanford Seven-Day Physical Activity Recall (7D–PAR) has been used in studies on the association of physical activity and health parameters (31), and as a primary outcome measure in randomized controlled trials to evaluate the effectiveness of physical activity promotion strategies (12,13). Several studies have evaluated the validity of this instrument in adults by comparing physical activity assessed by the 7D-PAR with direct physical activity assessments obtained by self-report logging procedures, heart rate monitoring and motion sensors, or indirect indicators of physical activity participation such as maximal aerobic capacity, dietary intake, or percent body fat (3,25,26). Results indicated modest correlations between the 7D-PAR and direct measurements of physical activity (median r = 0.50) and lower correlations with indirect physical activity measures.

Few studies have validated the 7D-PAR using doubly labeled water (DLW), considered to be the “gold standard” criterion measure of energy expenditure in free-living individuals (5,14,18). Irwin et al. (16) and Conway et al. (9) compared 7D-PAR total energy expenditure with total energy expenditure assessed by DLW over a 14-d period in 24 adult men, age 27–65 yr. Results showed the 7D-PAR overestimated energy expenditure from doubly labeled water by 4132 ± 1356 kJ·d−1 (30.6 ± 9.9%). None of the factors considered (age, body mass index, physical activity level, or percent fat) were significantly associated with error in estimation of energy expenditure using the 7D-PAR (16). Bonnefoy et al. (5) in a small sample of healthy older men (N = 19, mean age = 73.4 ± 4.1 yr) reported the 7D-PAR overestimated total energy expenditure assessed by DLW by 1155 kJ·d−1 (10.8%). In a sample of 14 middle-age (40 yr) obese women (45 ± 4% fat), Racette et al. (24) reported that the 7D-PAR overestimated daily energy expenditure by 205 kJ·d−1 (3.4 ± 14.4%).

The purpose of the current study was to further evaluate the validity of the 7D-PAR and identify determinants associated with the accuracy of estimation of energy expenditure using DLW as the criterion measure in a larger sample of young adult men and women. Physical activity assessment is particularly important for evaluating both the effectiveness of interventions and the association between activity and chronic disease risk factors in young adults, a group at high risk for sedentary behavior and weight gain (19,28).

Author Information

1Energy Balance Laboratory, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS; and

2Departments of Pediatrics and Pharmacology and

3Center for Human Nutrition, The University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, Denver, CO

Address for correspondence: Richard A. Washburn, Ph.D., Energy Balance Laboratory, University of Kansas, 1301 Sunnyside Avenue, Lawrence, KS 66045; E-mail:

Submitted for publication November 2002.

Accepted for publication April 2003.

©2003The American College of Sports Medicine