Carnegie Mellon University

Physical Activity


Physical Activity Questionnaire



Primary Reference

Shapiro, S., Weinblatt, E., Frank, C. W., Sager, R. V., & Densen, P. M. (1963).  The H.I.P. study of incidence and prognosis of coronary heart disease. Journal of Chronic Diseases, 16, 1281-1292.


To evaluate participants’ degree of physical activity at work and outside of work.


Participants answer a series of questions related to physical activity at work and outside of work.


For most items, participants select the single option from a close-ended response set that best describes the frequency with which they engage in a given physical activity.  Individual item response sets differ depending on the activity of interest.  However, all items are scaled relative to one another so that equivalent levels of activity are given the same numeric value across items (see below).

Number of Items


Sample Items

  • How much time on your job is spent sitting?
    (0 = practically all the time, 1 = more than 1/2, 2 = about 1/2, 3 = less than 1/2, 4 = almost none)
  • How often do you take walks, runs or jogs in good weather?
    (0 = never or very infrequently, 1 = sometimes, 2 = frequently)
  • How often do you take part in sports like an active ball game?
    (0 = never or very infrequently, 3 = sometimes, 4 = frequently)


Reversed items: 4, 6

Leisure Activities

Aerobic = sum items 7, 8, 9
Recreational Sports = sum items 10, 11
Passive Recreation = sum items 12, 13

Work-Related Activities

Physical Work = sum items 1, 2, 5
Work Transportation = sum items 3, 4R, 6R


College Alumni Health Study Questionnaire (Paffenbarger Scale) (7-item version [PCS1], 4-item version [PMBC, PCS3])



Copyright Information

The College Alumni Health Study Questionnaire is not a copyrighted measure.  However, those wishing to publish data derived from the scale are asked to cite Lee & Paffenbarger (2009; see below).

Primary References

1. Paffenbarger, R. S., Wing, A. I., Hyde, R. T. (1978). Physical activity as an index of heart attack risk in college alumni. American Journal of Epidemiology, 108, 161-175.

2.  Paffenbarger Jr., R. S., Hyde, R., Wing, A. L., & Hsieh, C. C. (1986). Physical activity, all-cause mortality, and longevity of college alumni. New England Journal of Medicine, 314(10), 605-613.

3.  Lee, I. M., Sesso, H. D., Oguma, Y., & Paffenbarger, R. S. (2003). Relative intensity of physical activity and risk of coronary heart disease. Circulation, 107(8), 1110-1116.

4.  Lee, I.-M., & Paffenbarger, R. S., Jr. (2009). Design of present-day epidemiologic studies of physical activity and health. In: I.-M. (Ed). Epidemiologic methods in physical activity studies (pp. 100-123). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.


To assess usual levels of daily physical activity and frequency and duration of engagement in recreational sports and other leisure activities.

Type of Measure

Modified.  The original published scale included 7 items pertaining to performed physical activities and 1 item reflecting participants’ own assessments of whether they get enough exercise to stay healthy.  The version of the scale administered in PCS1 included the 7 performed physical activity items only.  The brief scale administered in PMBC and PCS3 included of 4 of the 7 physical activity items.


The scale is comprised of several open- and closed-ended response items that ask participants to estimate their usual levels of daily physical activity; the frequency with which they engage in vigorous physical exercise; the level of exertion they typically put into exercising (PCS1 only); and the number of hours per day they usually spend engaged in activities requiring varying levels of effort (PCS1 only). Participants also list any sports and recreational activities in which they engage and how frequently they engage in them.  In PCS1, the reference period for the sports and recreation item was the past year (consistent with Paffenbarger’s original scale); in PMBC and PCS3, the past week.

Number of Items

7 (PCS1); 4 (PMBC, PCS3)

Sample Items

  • At least once a week, do you engage in any regular activity like brisk walking, etc?
  • How many city blocks do you walk on average day?


Reliability:  The original published scale has been shown to have good test-retest reliability over periods as diverse as 4 weeks (Cauley et al., 1987) and 1 year (LaPorte et al, 1983).


The scale can be scored in several ways.  A common method involves computing a physical activity index (PAI) representing the total amount of energy expended (in kilocalories, kcal) per week (Paffenbarger et al., 1986).  Paffenbarger and colleagues assigned fixed values of 56 kcal for walking 7 city blocks per week and 28 kcal for climbing 7 flights of stairs per week.  Sports and other activities were coded into three broad categories—light, vigorous, and mixed, and based on this categorization assigned energy expenditure rates of 5 kcal/min, 10 kcal/min, or 7.5 kcal/min, respectively.  Using these values, the total energy expended per week associated with a given activity can be computed as follows:

Total energy expenditure = (kcal/min) x (times per week engaged in activity) x (minutes per episode).

Accordingly, an individual’s PAI can be computed by summing the following values:

  • (Number of blocks walked) x 56 kcal
  • (Number of flights of stairs climbed) x 28 kcal
  • Total energy expenditure for each reported sport or other leisure activity

Other scoring methods involve coding physical activities based on their metabolic equivalent (MET) intensity levels (Lee et al., 2003).  One MET is used to represent the amount of energy expended by the average person while at rest, and is equivalent to 1 kilocalorie per kilogram of body weight expended per hour (i.e., 1 [kcal]/([kg*hour]).  MET values associated various physical activities can be obtained by consulting the most recent update of the Compendium of Physical Activities (Ainsworth et al., 2011).

*PMBC, PCS3: For additional physical activity questions, see also Daily Interview Diary

Additional References

Ainsworth, B. E., Haskell, W. L., Herrmann, S. D., Meckes, N., Bassett, D. R., Tudor-Locke, C., ... & Leon, A. S. (2011). 2011 compendium of physical activities: a second update of codes and MET values. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 43(8), 1575-1581.

Cauley, J. A., LaPorte, R. F., Black-Sandler, R., Schramm, M. M., & Kriska, A. M. (1987). Comparisons of methods to measure physical activity in post-menopausal women. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 45, 14-22.

LaPorte, R. F., Black-Sandler, R., Cauley, J. A., Link, M., Bayles, C., & Marks, B. (1983). The assessment of physical activity in adult women: Analysis of the interrelationship and reliability of activity monitoring surveys and caloric intake. Journal of Gerontology, 38, 394-397.


Physical Activity Questionnaire



Copyright Information

Not a copyrighted scale

Primary Reference

Washburn, R. A., Goldfield, S. R. W., Smith, K. W., & McKinlay, J. B. (1990).  The validity of self-reported exercise-induced sweating as a measure of physical activityAmerican Journal of Epidemiology, 132, 107-113.


To evaluate participants’ degree of physical activity.


Participants answer a series of questions related to physical activity.

Number of Items



  • At least once a week, do you engage in regular physical activity like brisk walking, jogging, bicycling, swimming, etc. long enough to work up a sweat, get your heart thumping, or get out of breath?
  • On average, how many days per week and minutes per day do you engage in this kind of exercise?
  • When you are exercising in your usual fashion, how would you rate your usual level of exertion (degree of effort)?  (0=no effort at all; 10=maximum effort)


  • Exercise at least once a week (yes/no)
  • (Number of days exercise per week) x (effort)
  • Number of days per week exercise
  • Number of minutes per week exercise