Share this article on:

Physical Activity Recommendations: An Alternative Approach Using Energy Expenditure


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: October 2008 - Volume 40 - Issue 10 - p 1757-1763
doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e31817bb8a2
BASIC SCIENCES: Epidemiology

Most adults do not meet the American College of Sports Medicine and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (ACSM/CDC) physical activity recommendations. Even fewer meet the more extreme Institute of Medicine (IOM) physical activity recommendations. Compliance with either recommendation has been conventionally assessed by combining frequencies and durations of self-reported activities. Leisure-time energy expenditure is a cumulative measure of activity that offers an alternative method of defining compliance.

Purposes: To calculate the leisure-time energy expenditure of adults complying with the ACSM/CDC or the IOM physical activity recommendations determined by conventional measures and to reexamine compliance with the IOM recommendation using energy expenditure criteria.

Methods: National, cross-sectional data from the 2000 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System determined the mode, frequency, and duration of up to two leisure-time activities performed by adults. Four mutually exclusive activity groups (Non-, Low-, ACSM/CDC-, and IOM-Active) were defined on the basis of frequencies and durations of reported activities. Leisure-time energy expenditure (kcal·kg−1·wk−1) was calculated per respondent. The energy expenditure threshold for meeting the IOM recommendation was calculated as 21 kcal·kg−1·wk−1.

Results: Of the 162,669 respondents included in the analyses, 29.9% were Nonactive, whereas 42.3%, 23.3%, and 4.5% were Low-, ACSM/CDC-, and IOM-Active, respectively. Median leisure-time energy expenditure values were 9.0, 27.4, and 63.0 kcal·kg−1·wk−1 for Low-, ACSM/CDC-, and IOM-Active groups, respectively. When using energy expenditure criteria, compliance with the IOM recommendation rose to 27.7% of respondents.

Conclusions: Compliance with the IOM physical activity recommendation dramatically increased when assessed by energy expenditure compared with conventional criteria, thereby highlighting the potential bias of conventional methods. A significant proportion of adults meet the intent but not the letter of the IOM activity recommendation.

1Departments of Kinesiology, and 2Epidemiology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI; and 3Michigan Department of Community Health, Bureau of Epidemiology, Lansing, MI

Address for correspondence: Lanay M. Mudd, M.S., Department of Kinesiology, Michigan State University, 3 IM Sports Circle, East Lansing, MI 48824; E-mail:

Submitted for publication August 2007.

Accepted for publication April 2008.

©2008The American College of Sports Medicine