Physical activity measurement: Summary of cross-study comparisons ShareThis

< Go to guide main menu

Explore the different domains of self-reported physical activity measured across selected CLOSER studies


The five studies included in this comparison are: NSHD, NCDS, BCS70, ALSPAC, and MCS. We have not included UKHLS in our comparability section given its different study design as age cannot be separated out. Each study has collected a wealth of physical activity data across different domains, although the ages of collections and frequency of collections differs (see the table below). We will summarise the study data available in childhood and adulthood in each domain: leisure, occupational, active travel, domestic, and sedentary behaviour. This will be followed by a discussion on the cross-study comparability of the variables at similar ages. This is intended to be illustrative rather than definitive or exhaustive; interested readers may well choose to make cross or within-study comparisons using different measures (see the electronic appendix for further detail).

Where questions and response scales are sufficiently comparable, it is possible to compare the absolute levels of activity between studies—this is noted in the text below. In most instances however, due to differences in question wording, the measures are likely only comparable in terms of rank ordering, such that the relative ranking of participants from inactive to most active may be comparable across studies. While this does not enable comparison of absolute levels across studies, it may form the basis for cross-study comparisons of associations, where physical activity levels are the exposure or outcome of interest.

[table id=252 /]

NSHD: MRC National Survey of Health and Development (1946); NCDS: National Child Development Study (1958); BCS70: British Cohort Study 1970; ALSPAC: Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (1991-1992); MCS: Millennium Cohort Study (2001).
Accelerometry: MCS: 7y: Actigraph GT1M accelerometer, 14y: GENEActiv accelerometer; ALSPAC 12, 14, 16, 25y Actigraph accelerometer; BCS70 46-48y ActivPal accelerometer; NSHD: 68-69y: ActiHeart accelerometer, 68-69y GCDC X15-1c triaxial accelerometer.
Only main study members are included, parents/carer information or other family members are excluded (e.g. ALSPAC mothers).


Detailed domain summaries: Cross-study data availability and comparability


Learn more about the individual studies covered by this guide and their measurement of physical activity:

Further information:

This page is part of the CLOSER resource: ‘Physical activity across age and study: a guide to data in six CLOSER studies’.