European Respiratory Journal vol:27 issue:5 pages:1040-55
Accurate assessment of the amount and intensity of physical activity in daily life is considered very important due to the close relationship between physical activity level, health, disability and mortality. For this reason, assessment of physical activity in daily life has gained interest in recent years, especially in sedentary populations, such as patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The present article aims to compare and discuss the two kinds of instruments more commonly used to quantify the amount of physical activity performed by COPD patients in daily life: subjective methods (questionnaires, diaries) and motion sensors (electronic or mechanical methods). Their characteristics are summarised and evidence of their validity, reliability and sensitivity is discussed, when available. Subjective methods have practical value mainly in providing the patients' view on their performance in activities of daily living and functional status. However, care must be taken when using subjective methods to accurately quantify the amount of daily physical activity performed. More accurate information is likely to be available with motion sensors rather than questionnaires. The selection of which motion sensor to use for quantification of physical activity in daily life should depend mainly on the purpose of its use.