Paffenbarger Physical Activity Questionnaire : Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise

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A Collection of Physical Activity Questionnaires for Health-Related Research

Paffenbarger Physical Activity Questionnaire

Medicine& Science in Sports & Exercise 29(6):p 83-88, June 1997.
  • Free
  • Activity component(s) assessed: Leisure-time
  • Time frame of recall: Past week or past year
  • Original mode of administration: Interviewer- or self-administered
  • Primary source of information: Dr. Ralph S. Paffenbarger, Jr.; Stanford University School of Medicine; Department of Health Research and Policy; HRP Redwood Bldg., Room T213B; Stanford, CA 94305-5092
  • Primary reference: Paffenbarger, R. S., A. L. Wing, and R. T. Hyde. Physical activity as an index of heart attack risk in college alumni.Am. J. Epidemiol. 108:161-175, 1978.

Note: The Paffenbarger Physical Activity Questionnaire was designed primarily to identify leisure-time physical activities associated with hypertensive cardiovascular disease in college alumni. To supplement the material included here, the reader should refer to a previous article by Paffenbarger and colleagues (9). A sample questionnaire to assess physical activity, physiological fitness, diet, and health was presented by these authors (9). Part “C” of the questionnaire includes the questions on physical activity that are described herein.


Tables 37,38

Paffenbarger Physical Activity Questionnaire



Administering or completing the Paffenbarger questionnaire is self-explanatory. The individual is asked explicitly about walking and stair climbing, which are modes of “getting about” required of almost everyone. In addition, information on recreation and sports play is requested through open-ended questions concerning frequency of times played annually and years of participation together with duration of play/episode.


The kilocalorie scores for city blocks walked and flights of stairs climbed were defined by Paffenbarger and colleagues in 1978(11). The original source of the kilocalorie scores used for sports play and recreation is Passmore and Durnin(13).

  • Walking
    • 1 city block = 8 kcal
    • 12 city blocks = 1 mile = 96 kcal
  • Climbing stairs
    • 1 flight of stairs = 10 steps = 4 kcal
  • Sports and recreational activities
    • Light intensity = 5 kcal/min
    • Vigorous intensity = 10 kcal/min
    • Mixed intensity = 7.5 kcal/min

Kilocalories per week: Equation

Physical Activities Ranked by MET Value

Reprinted with permission of the publisher from Lee, I-M., R. S. Paffenbarger, Jr., and C. C. Hsieh. Time trends in physical activity among college alumni, 1962-1988. Am. J. Epidemiol. 108:161-175, 1992. Copyright 1992 by the American Journal of Epidemiology.

  • MET value = 2.5: boating, sailing; croquet; trail bike riding
  • MET value = 3.0: bocci ball, lawn ball; bowling; candlepin bowling, duckpin bowling; carpentry in workshop, do-it-yourself projects; diving; horseshoes; Indian clubs; shuffleboard; surfing and wind surfing
  • MET value = 3.5: archery; catch, frisbee, games with children; coaching sports; fishing from riverbank or boat, surf casting; home maintenance, home repair, housekeeping; hunting, shooting, working dogs in the field; mowing lawn with power mower
  • MET value = 4.0: boat maintenance; curling; gardening; golf; raking lawn; walking
  • MET value = 4.5: badminton; body building, Nautilus, weight lifting; canoeing for pleasure, kayaking, white water rafting; farming, ranching; horseback riding, fox hunting; painting, paper hanging; platform tennis, table tennis; snorkeling, spear fishing; volleyball
  • MET value = 5.0: baseball, cricket, kickball, softball, track ball, whiffleball; basketball; dancing; digging, spading; gymnastics, trampoline; skateboarding
  • MET value = 5.5: aerobics, calisthenics, home exercise, tai chi chuan; bicycling; cardiac rehabilitation therapy, health club
  • MET value = 6.0: bayonet, fencing, kendo, two-handed sword; body surfing, swimming; cross-country hiking; cycling machine, rowing machine treadmill walking; fishing in stream with wading boots; mowing lawn with hand mower; water skiing
  • MET value = 6.5: carpentry outside, roof repair, shingling; cutting wood, splitting wood; heavy work around home and yard; paddleball, paddle tennis; sledding, tobogganing; snow shoveling; snow skiing, downhill skiing
  • MET value = 7.0: back packing; field hockey, football, lacrosse, rugby; forestry and trail maintenance; ice hockey, ice skating, roller skating; jogging; racquetball; scuba diving; soccer; tennis (lawn and court)
  • MET value = 8.0: boxing; judo, martial arts, wrestling; mountain climbing; polo; snowshoeing; snow skiing, cross-country
  • MET value = 10.0: handball; logging, lumbering; water polo
  • MET value = 12.0: canoeing or rowing in competition, racing crew, sculls; competition running, track and field; squash


These hypothetical data are used to demonstrate the kilocalorie scoring method.

How many flights of stairs do you usually climb up each day (let 1 flight = 10 steps)?

7 flights per day

How many city blocks or their equivalent do you regularly walk each day(let 12 blocks = 1 mile)?

12 blocks per day

List any sports or recreational activity you have participated in during the past week. Please include only the time you were physically active (i.e., actual playing time in jogging, bicycling, swimming, brisk walking, gardening, carpentry, calisthenics, etc.).

Racquetball: 2 times/wk, 45 min/time (coded as vigorous):Equation


In addition to the references cited, other studies have used the Paffenbarger Questionnaire(2,4,5,8,10,12).



1. Ainsworth, B. E., A. S. Leon, M. T. Richardson, D. R. Jacobs, Jr., and R. S. Paffenbarger. Accuracy of the College Alumnus Physical Activity Questionnaire. J. Clin. Epidemiol. 46:1403-1411, 1993.
2. Ainsworth, B. E., C. B. Berry, V. N. Schnyder, and S. R. Vickers. Leisure-time physical activity and aerobic fitness in African-American young adults. J. Adolescent Health 13:606-611, 1992.
3. 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.
4. Eaton, C. B., J. Reynes, A. R. Assaf, H. Feldman, T. Lasater, and R. A. Carleton. Predicting physical activity changes in men and women in two New England communities. Am. J. Prev. Med. 9:209-219, 1993.
5. Eaton, C. B., A. N. Nafziger, D. S. Strogatz, and T. A. Pearson. Self-reported physical activity in a rural county: a New York County Health Census. Am. J. Public Health 84:29-32, 1994.
6. Jacobs, D. R. Jr., B. E. Ainsworth, T. J. Hartman, and A. S. Leon. A simultaneous evaluation of 10 commonly used physical activity questionnaires. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc. 25:81-91, 1993.
7. LaPorte, R. E., R. Black-Sandler, J. A. Cauley, M. Link, C. Bayles, and B. Marks. The assessment of physical activity in older women: analysis of the interrelationship and reliability of activity monitoring, activity surveys, and caloric intake. J. Gerontol. 38:394-397, 1983.
8. Lee, I-M, R. S. Paffenbarger, Jr., and C. C. Hsieh. Time trends in physical activity among college alumni, 1962-1988. Am. J. Epidemiol. 108:161-175, 1992.
9. Paffenbarger, R. S., Jr., S. N. Blair, I-Min Lee, and R. T. Hyde. Measurement of physical activity to assess health effects in free-living populations. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc. 25:60-70, 1993.
10. Paffenbarger, R. S., R. T. Hyde, A. L. Wing, I. M. Lee, D. L. Jung, and J. B. Kampert. The association of changes in physical activity and other lifestyle characteristics with mortality among men. N. Engl. J. Med. 8:538-545, 1993.
11. Paffenbarger, R. S., A. L. Wing, and R. T. Hyde. Physical activity as an index of heart attack risk in college alumni.Am. J. Epidemiol. 108:161-175, 1978.
12. Paffenbarger, R. S., A. L. Wing, R. T. Hyde, and D. L. Jung. Physical activity and incidence of hypertension in College Alumni.Am. J. Epidemiol. 117:245-257, 1983.
13. Passmore, R. and J. V. G. A. Durnin. Human energy expenditure. Physiol. Rev. 35:801-840, 1955.
14. Rauh, M. J. D., M. F. Hovell, C. R. Hofstetter, J. F. Sallis, and A. Gleghorn. Reliability and validity of self-reported physical activity in Lations. Int. J. Epidemiol. 21:966-971, 1992.
15. Siconolfi, S. F., T. M. Lasater, R. C. K. Snow, and R. A. Carleton. Self-reported physical activity compared with maximal oxygen uptake. Am. J. Epidemiol. 122:101-105, 1985.
16. Washburn, R. A., L. L. Adams, and G. T. Haile. Physical activity assessment for epidemiological research: the utility of two simplified approaches. Prev. Med. 16:636-646, 1987.
17. Washburn, R. A., K. W. Smith, S. R. Goldfield, and J. R. McKinlay. Reliability and physiologic correlates of the Harvard Alumni Activity Survey in a general population. J. Clin. Epidemiol. 44:1319-1326, 1991.

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