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A Collection of Physical Activity Questionnaires for Health-Related Research

Minnesota Leisure-Time Physical Activity Questionnaire

Medicine& Science in Sports & Exercise: June 1997 - Volume 29 - Issue 6 - p 62-72
  • Free
  • Activity component(s) assessed: Leisure and home/household
  • Time frame of recall: Past 12 mo
  • Original mode of administration: Interviewer-administered
  • Primary source of information: Dr. David R. Jacobs, Jr.; Division of Epidemiology; University of Minnesota; 1300 South 2nd Street, Suite 300; Minneapolis, MN 55454-1015
  • Primary reference: Taylor, H. L., D. R. Jacobs Jr., B. Shucker, J. Knudsen, A. S. Leon, and G. DeBacker. A questionnaire for the assessment of leisure-time physical activities. J. Chron. Dis. 31:741-755, 1978.


Tables 27,28


Reprinted by permission of the publisher from Taylor, H. L., D. R. Jacobs, Jr., B. Shucker, J Knudsen, A. S. Leon, and G. DeBacker, A questionnaire for the assessment of leisure-time physical activities. J. Chronic Dis. 31:741-775, 1978. Copyright 1978 by Elsevier Science Inc.


The Minnesota Leisure-Time Physical Activity Questionnaire consists of a list of 63 sports, recreational, yard, and household activities. The participant is instructed to report whether or not they performed the activity in the last 12 mo. The interviewer verifies any “yes” responses and asks the participant to “Tell me in which months you performed them,” followed by “the average number of times/month” and“the average time you spent at the activity each time you performed it” (12). Specific coding instructions, including comments on interview technique, a sample introduction, sample instruction, standardized times for activities, and comments on the coding of specific activities are included below by permission of the publisher from Taylor, H. L., D. R. Jacobs Jr., B. Shucker, J. Knudsen, A. S. Leon, and G. DeBacker. A questionnaire for the assessment of leisure-time physical activities. J. Chronic Dis. 31:741-775, 1978. Copyright 1978 by Elsevier Science Inc.


Interview Technique

The administration of the physical activity questionnaire requires that special attention be paid to interviewing technique to limit bias in the data and to prevent the interview from becoming ponderous and irritating for both the participant and the interviewer. It is difficult for most people to remember what they did the previous year, especially when it comes to an activity such as walking. Some participants tend to give up and do not try to make an estimate. Other participants take the task very seriously and try too hard, dragging out the interview unnecessarily.

As an interviewer, you should establish rapport during the introduction phase, exchanging a few pleasantries. Stressing the importance of the data can be achieved by emphasizing keywords. Instructions should be given in a slow, clear manner. From this point on you should take the initiative and set and maintain the pace in a very matter of fact way. Extraneous talk should be avoided. Although a participant should not be hurried, if he is spending undue time trying to recall detail, you should interrupt with “Remember, we're not interested in an average or an estimate or an exact time” or an“In general what would you say?.” If a participant rambles you should politely cut in and remind him that you are interested in months and average times. For any participant, challenge anything that seems exaggerated.

Example. A participant states that he swims 1 h/wk at the YMCA. Make sure that the hour does not include changing time and socializing. In fact, the actual swimming time may be only 20 min. If a participant states that he performs an activity more than 8 times/mo (which would average twice a week), translate it into weeks to verify it.

Example. Participant states he plays softball 16 times/mo. The interviewer should state “On the average, you play softball 4 times a week.” If a participant says he does something during the summer months, do not assume which months he means. Probe by asking “Which months are you referring to?” It is known that people tend to overestimate time spent at a particular activity. If a participant says “2 or 3 h,” record 2. If the range given is large, “5-10 times,” ask that he or she try to be more specific. If an activity is performed very frequently,“number of times/mo” may be a difficult time reference. Suggest that the participant think in terms of number of times per week. If an outdoor activity is performed every month, probe “Is your activity the same in summer as in winter?” Expect that an average interview will last 10-20 min. Your goal is to get estimates as accurate as possible while maintaining a moderate-to-brisk, interesting pace. The more experience you get interviewing, the easier these techniques will be. Hearing tapes of your own interviews would be extremely helpful in developing style. Plan to interview and record at least six respondents (staff members are fine) as practice. Evaluate your style and how a situation might have been handled differently-perhaps more information needed, an unchallenged questionable response, or a little faster pace, etc.

Sample Introduction

Science does not yet have all the answers regarding the relationship between physical activity and coronary heart disease. It is very important that we collect physical activity data for each participant. We use this form and will ask you to make the best estimate you can in answering the questions.

Sample Instruction

In this column we have listed different kinds of physical activities(point). In this column you checked whether you did or did not perform an activity in the last year. Is that right? So these activities with a check in the “Yes” column (point) are activities that you performed sometime between now and last June (appropriate month). For each of these activities, I'd like you to tell me in which months you performed them(point), then I'd like the average number of times per month (point) and, finally, the average time you spent at the activity each time you performed it.


For example, suppose you had checked backpacking. First you would give the months. Let's say July and August. Then you would tell me the average number of times per month. If it was once in July and 3 times in August, you would tell me twice. Then you would tell me the average time you spend at the activity each time you backpacked. This may sound confusing, but once we start a routine, it will be quite easy. (A positive attitude and manner here is very important.) For the first one or two activities checked, you will have to go through the steps verbatim.

Example. “You've checked that you've done backpacking. In which months did you backpack? What was the average number of times each month?,” etc. After this you should strive for word economy and just use words or phrases, rather than entire sentences. Pointing with a pen helps.

Example. Sailing. Months? Average times per month? Time per occasion? Once the routine is well established, after starting the activity, a nod of the head and pointing with a pen should elicit a response.


Several activities will require special probing or clarifying comments for each participant, no matter how the first column has been checked. A definition has been written for each of the activities. You should be familiar with all of these. With the exception of the categories mentioned below, you need not define activities unless a participant has a question.

For situations in which walking is done from point to point requiring continuous walking for 10 min or more, these are requested as separate items. Note that time of walking during working hours is not wanted, except for long breaks, such as lunch. For using stairs instead of an elevator, start“For this one activity we will consider your choice of stairs or an elevator at any time, even during your work day.” Then probe in the routine manner. If a participant has checked home exercise or health club, ask what the specific activities are and record data per instructions in the definitions of activities section. Under home repair activities, state to each participant “Because of space limitations, we couldn't list all possible home activities. Can you think of any major repair or maintenance job which you did last year?” (Note: Under the definitions section are procedures for coding the home repair category.) The lawn-mowing categories require some clarification. If a participant checks walking behind a power mower, state“By this we mean a power mower which has to be pushed or a self-propelled mower.” If pushing a hand mower is checked, state“By this we mean a mower which has no power.”

The following activities have constraints (see Definitions and Comments on Activities). If any of these activities are checked, probe to be sure that the constraint has been met:

  • Swimming
  • Cross-country hiking
  • Backpacking
  • Bicycling
  • Sailing

Standardized Times for Activities

To ensure uniformity, we will consider:

  • 4 wk in 1 mo
  • 48 workweek/yr
  • 240 workdays/yr
  • 22 workdays/mo
  • 100 weekend days/year

Standard times have been established for the following activities:Table

For these activities the questioning format will change, i.e., do not ask how many minutes you spend on the stairs, ask the number of flights and translate into minutes using standard of ½ min/flight, or how many holes of golf, etc.


If the participant has filled out the entire questionnaire, checking months, etc., it will be necessary to validate each activity by reading back to him the information he has put down. Question anything that looks out of the ordinary.

Definitions and Comments on Activities

Code Title and comment
  • 010: Walking for pleasure. Since this is the most frequently reported activity, each participant should be asked specifically about it.
  • 015: Walking to and from work. Walking from the bus to work, or the parking lot, etc., may be included in this category if the walking is continuous for 10 min or more. Such walking may be repeated in the evening.
  • 020: Walking during work breaks. Include only walking that is not connected with work, such as walks during lunch hour. Walking that is associated with customary performance of the occupation is not included.
  • 030: Voluntarily using stairs when elevator or escalator is available. Ask specifically for the number of trips upstairs. Do not count walking downstairs; count ½ min for each flight (a flight = 1 story).
  • 040: Cross-country hiking. Walking continuously on flat or in hilly terrain without backpack for at least 2 h. Ask for elapsed time and frequency and duration of rest periods and stops for eating. Finally, estimate total time spent walking per occasion.
  • 050: Backpacking. Defined as walking and carrying a pack weighing 20 lb or more containing, for instance, gear and supplies for overnight camping. If the activity does not qualify, record time, etc. under 040. Discount stops for rest and eating, etc.
  • 060: Mountain climbing. Walking trips in which the purpose is to reach a “high point” that takes several hours or days to accomplish qualify as mountain climbing. No distinction between rock climbing or hill climbing is made. Ask the subject to distinguish between actual climbing and rest stops, eating, sleeping, etc. Total time so as to include both up and down time.
  • 115: Bicycling. To work and/or for pleasure. No distinction is made regarding the type of bicycle or the terrain. Ask for actual riding time. The rare individual who engages in medium and long-distance racing should be reported under Other Activities under the title of Competitive Bicycling. Obtain data on practice sessions, include races as practice sessions.
  • 125: Dancing. Ballroom and/or square dancing. Ask for time spent on dance floor.

Conditioning Exercises

Setting up exercises, special routines for increasing flexibility or strength, running in place for roughly 3 min carried out at home or in the health club should be reported under “Home exercise” or“Health club.” On the other hand, if a participant concentrates his activities in one area such as jog-walk, jogging, running, weight lifting, do not report this under “Home exercise” or “Health club” but under the activity (180, 200, 210). If a participant goes to the YMCA for the sole purpose of playing a game of squash or other games listed in the section headed Sports, please list this activity under the specific game, rather than under activities of “Health club.” If the company that employs the participant offers physical conditioning facilities and exercise routines on company time, these should be reported under “Health club” or the particular activities listed above:

  • 150 Home exercise. Ask what kind of exercise is done. Do not include items listed under other codes. Ask for time spent actually exercising.
  • 160 Health club. Ask what kind of exercise is done at the club. Distinguish between visits for exercise classes and visits to engage in a single specific game (such as volleyball) or specific activity (such as swimming). Report specific activities below. Ask for total time spent in locker room, steam room, etc.
  • 180 Jogging-walking. Ask for time spent in jogging and walking.(Most participants who do this will have a good estimate of the time.)
  • 200 Running. Ask for time spent running. “Running” is defined as continuous running for at least 10 min, using full length strides. Shorter continuous activity is to be reported under jog-walk.
  • 210 Weight lifting. Ask for time spent in the weight-lifting area. The type of weight lifting is not important for the purposes of this question.
  • 220 Water skiing. To obtain time per occasion, ask for the total number of “rides” per occasion. Multiply the number of rides or trips by 5 and record this as the total minutes of activity.
  • 235 Sailing. Only those individuals who sail in racing competition are to be recorded here. Record the number of hours per occasion the participant is either racing or practicing.
  • 250 Canoeing or rowing for pleasure. Record the hours per occasion. Be sure the participant distinguishes riding in row boat from rowing.
  • 260 Canoeing or rowing for competition. Ask for the number of months of training, the number of training sessions per month and the average time per training session.
  • 270 Canoeing on a camping trip. Include the time paddling, whether at bow or stern. Also included are associated activities, such as portage, setting up camp, and maintaining camp.
  • 280 Swimming (at a pool). Distinguish between time spent sitting in the sun by the side of the motel pool (drinking beer or bloody Marys?), time spent “cooling off,” and time spent actually swimming. Was the pool large enough to swim in? Athletic clubs and YMCAs have pools 50-75 ft in length. Verify.
  • 295 Swimming at the beach or lake. Time spent in sitting on the beach or playing with waterball in 18 inches of water is not wanted. Ask if the participant swam out into deep water and how long he/she was swimming in water over the subject's head? Do not include time spent snorkeling.
  • 310 Scuba diving. Swimming underwater while breathing oxygen from a tank strapped to back. Ask for time actually spent swimming underwater.
  • 320 Snorkeling. Swimming with a face mask and breathing tube. Ask for time in water with snorkel gear in place.
  • 340 Snow skiing downhill. Ask for time spent actually skiing downhill. It may help to ask the participant to estimate the number of runs per occasion and roughly how long each run actually took. Competitive downhill racing should be reported under “Other activities” under the title“Downhill Ski Racing”.
  • 350 Cross-country skiing. Ask the subject for the average amount of time spent cross-country skiing. If a respondent reports “Snow Shoeing,” that can also be recorded in this section of the form.
  • 360 Ice or roller skating. Total time spent at rink, minus rest periods and socializing.
  • 370 Sledding or tobogganing. Ask for time on the slope, then how much time is spent walking uphill. Report time walking uphill. If mechanical transportation is provided for going back up the hill, do not report activity.
  • 390 Bowling. Ask the participant “How many games or lines do you bowl on an average night or occasion?” Multiply the number of games times 10. The answer is time per occasion in minutes.
  • 400 Volleyball. Ask for and record time spent on court.
  • 410 Table tennis. Ask for and record total time playing.
  • 420 Tennis singles. Ask for number of sets. Multiply the number of sets by 20 min. The answer is playing time in minutes. For lessons and volleying, record court time.
  • 430 Tennis doubles. Ask for the number of sets. Multiply the number of sets by 15 min. Record the answer, which is playing time in minutes.
  • 440 Softball. Record the number of games. Ask for innings per game; 7-inning games are considered to last 1 h, 30 min while 9-inning games last 2 h.
  • 450 Badminton. Record court time. Report tournament play in Section 1 under the heading of “Competitive Badminton” activities.
  • 460 Paddleball. Record court time.
  • 470 Racketball. Record court time.
  • 480 Basketball. Record court time.
  • 490 Basketball game play. Record court time.
  • 500 Basketball officiating. Record court time.
  • 510 Touch football. Record time of game.
  • 520 Handball. Record court time.
  • 530 Squash. Record court time.
  • 540 Soccer. Record total playing time.

Golf. Identify the method of carrying clubs. Players who employ a caddie can be reported under code 080. Ask for the number of holes played. Count 1 ½ h for every nine holes played.

  • 070 Riding a power cart.
  • 080 Walking, pulling clubs in cart.
  • 090 Walking and carrying clubs.
  • 550 Mowing lawn. Riding a power mower. Ask for average time to cut lawn. Inquire regarding consumption of coffee, coke (or beer?), or rest breaks. Adjust time accordingly.
  • 560 Mowing lawn. Walking behind a power mower. This classification includes mowers with power applied to cutting blades only and also includes mowers with power applied to wheels and cutting blades. Record time to cut lawn with due regard to rest time.
  • 570 Mowing lawn. Pushing hand mower. Record time with due regard to rest time.
  • 580 Weeding and cultivation of garden. This item includes all activities needed to maintain an already planted garden. It can be done several times over the gardening season. Ask the subject to estimate the amount of time it takes with due regard for rest breaks.
  • 590 Spading, digging, filling in garden. This item refers to the activities needed to prepare a garden for planting. It is usually done only in the spring and so should not be checked for consecutive months. Ask the subject to estimate the time needed with due regard for rest time.
  • 600 Raking lawn. Record the time spent raking with due regard for rest time.
  • 610 Snow shoveling by hand. By checking with the local office of the National Weather Bureau, the Minnesota Center established a snow shoveling rate of 4-6 times/mo (for the winter of 1976-77). The criteria used for snow that required shoveling was at least a 1-inch snowfall within 48 h. If the subject gives an estimate beyond the 6 times/mo limit, he/she is questioned further to make sure that estimate is valid. It is suggested that each center where snow shoveling would be reported check with their branch of the Weather Bureau and determine a standard to be used.

Home Repair Activities

This section uses a limited number of specified activities to cover a large cluster of related activities. In the definition of activities given below, various other home repair activities are listed in addition to the principal heading. A good many home repair projects require from one-half to several days of work. Such activities may be confined to a relatively short portion of the year. To simplify recording it is proposed that all such activities be recorded in 1 month, usually the vacation period. Days to complete the task should be cumulative; use 8 h for 1 d. For example, Mr. Jones rebuilt a porch during his vacation (August) in 8 half-days of work and then built a brick wall, spending 3-5 h on Saturdays for 10 weekends (September-November). To compute the number of days in these activities, assume that it took 4 h per occasion to build the brick wall. There are then 18 half-days that may be recorded under code 640 as nine occasions in August with 8 h/occasion.

  • 620 Carpentry in workshop. Construction of furniture or comparable objects, using hand-held or power tools, or repair of storm windows or screens or minor repairs inside the house, can be included under this code. Record cumulative time spent in shop or doing minor repairs.
  • 630 Painting inside of house or wallpaper hanging. Waxing floors, laying tile, installing or repairing plumbing, and installing or repairing interior electric lines may be included under this code. Record time spent performing the task.
  • 640 Carpentry outside of house. Building porches, garages, carports, fences, etc., as well as laying brick on walls or patios, may be included under this code. Report cumulative time necessary to finish the job or jobs.
  • 650 Painting outside of house. Painting outside of the house, doing jobs that require ladders, changing storm windows and screens, washing windows, mixing and pouring cement, laying cement blocks, and digging trenches for foundations may be included under this code. Report cumulative time necessary to complete one or more tasks.
  • 660 Fishing from riverbank. Record time (in hours) spent on riverbank.
  • 670 Fishing in stream with wading boots. Record time (in hours) actually spent fishing.
  • 680 Hunting pheasants or grouse. Ask for time (in hours) spent walking through cornfields (for pheasants) or through the woods (for grouse); pool time for both activities.
  • 690 Hunting rabbits, prairie chickens, squirrels, and raccoons. Ask for time (in hours) spent in the field looking for game.
  • 710 Hunting large game-deer, elk, or bear. Record days spent in the field.

Other Activities

There will be the occasional individual who has spent a large amount of time on an activity that is not referred to here. If this time adds up to 8 h during the year, record under “Other activities,” asking the participant to give a name describing this activity.


Total Activity Metabolic Index (AMI) units of past-year activity is computed by summing AMI units computed for light, moderate, and heavy activities (12). Equation

The light, moderate, and heavy AMI categories are defined below.

Light AMI = sum for all activities with intensity codes less than or equal to 4.0: Equation

Moderate AMI = sum for all activities with intensity codes between 4.5 and 5.5 Equation

Heavy AMI = Sum for all activities with intensity codes of 6.0 or greaterEquation

Note: Total AMI can be expressed in weeks or days by dividing the total units by 52 or 365, respectively (12).


Table 29

Reprinted by permission of the publisher from Taylor, H. L., D. R. Jacobs, Jr., B. Shucker, J. Knudsen, A. S. Leon, and G. DeBacker. A questionnaire for the assessment of leisure-time physical activities. J. Chronic Dis. 31:741-755, 1978. Copyright 1978 by Elsevier Science Inc.

Walking for Pleasure (Light AMI)


Softball (Moderate AMI)


Tennis (Heavy AMI)



In addition to the references cited above, other studies have used the Minnesota Leisure-Time Physical Activity Questionnaire(3,8,10,11).


1. Albanes, D., J. M. Conway, P. R. Taylor, P. W. Moe, and J. Judd. Validation and comparison of eight physical activity questionnaires.Epidemiology 1:65-71, 1990.
2. DeBacker, G., A. M. Kornitzer, J. Sobolski, et al. Physical activity and physical fitness levels of Belgian males aged 40-55 years. Cardiology 67:110-128, 1981.
3. Folsom, A. R., C. J. Caspersen, H. L. Taylor, et al. Leisure time physical activity and its relationship to coronary risk factors in a population-based sample: The Minnesota Heart Survey. Am. J. Epidemiol. 121:570-579, 1985.
4. Folsom, A. R., D. R. Jacobs, Jr., C. J. Caspersen, O. Gomez-Marin, and J. Knudsen. Test-retest reliability of the Minnesota Leisure Time Physical Activity Questionnaire. J. Chronic Dis. 39:505-511, 1986.
5. Jacobs, D. R., Jr., B. E. Ainsworth, T. J. Hartman, and A. S. Leon. A simultaneous evaluation of ten commonly used physical activity questionnaires. Med. Sci. Sport Exerc. 25:81-91, 1993.
6. Knapik, J., J. Zoltick, H. C. Rottner, J. Phillips, C. Bielenda, B. Jones, and F. Drews. Relationships between self-reported physical activity and physical fitness in active men. Am. J. Prev. Med. 9:203-208, 1993.
7. Leon, A. S., D. R. Jacobs Jr., G. DeBacker, and H. L. Taylor. Relationship of physical characteristics and life habits to treadmill exercise capacity. Am. J. Epidemiol. 113:653-660, 1981.
8. Leon, A. S., J. Connett, D. R. Jacobs Jr., and R. Rauramaa. Leisure time physical activity levels and risk of coronary heart disease and death: the Multiple Risk Factor Intervention Trial.J.A.M.A. 258:2388-2395, 1987.
9. Richardson, M. T., A. S. Leon, D. R. Jacobs, Jr., B. E. Ainsworth, and R. Serfass. Comprehensive evaluation of the Minnesota Leisure-Time Physical Activity Questionnaire. J. Clin. Epidemiol. 47:271-281, 1994.
10. Siscovick, D. S., N. S. Weiss, A. P. Hallstrom, T. S. Inui, and D. R. Peterson. Physical activity and primary cardiac arrest.J.A.M.A. 3113-3117, 1982.
11. Slattery, M. L., D. R. Jacobs, Jr., and M. Z. Nichaman. Leisure time physical activity and coronary heart disease death: the U.S. Railroad Study. Circulation 79:304-311, 1989.
12. Taylor, H. L., D. R. Jacobs, Jr., B. Shucker, J. Knudsen, A. S. Leon, and G. DeBacker. A questionnaire for the assessment of leisure-time physical activities. J. Chronic Dis. 31:741-755, 1978.

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