Opposing patterns in self-reported and measured physical activity levels in middle-aged adults

Jin Luo, Raymond Y.W. Lee*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Physical activity brings significant health benefits to middle-aged adults, although the research to date has been focused on late adulthood. This study aims to examine how ageing affects the self-reported and accelerometer-derived measures of physical activity levels in middle-aged adults. We employed the data recorded in the UK Biobank and analysed the physical activity levels of 2,998 participants (1381 men and 1617 women), based on self-completion questionnaire and accelerometry measurement of physical activity. We also assessed the musculoskeletal health of the participants using the dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) measurements provided by the UK Biobank. Participants were categorised into three groups according to their age: group I younger middle-aged (40 to 49 years), group II older middle-aged (50 to 59 years), and group III oldest middle-aged (60 to 69 years). Self-reported physical activity level increased with age and was the highest in group III, followed by group II and I (P < 0.05). On the contrary, physical activity measured by accelerometry decreased significantly with age from group I to III (P < 0.05), and the same pertained to the measurements of musculoskeletal health (P < 0.05). It was also shown that middle-aged adults mostly engaged in low and moderate intensity activities. The opposing trends of the self-reported and measured physical activity levels may suggest that middle-aged adults over-report their activity level as they age. They should be aware of the difference between their perceived and actual physical activity levels, and objective measures would be useful to prevent the decline in musculoskeletal health.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Journal of Ageing
Early online date29 Oct 2021
Publication statusEarly online - 29 Oct 2021


  • Accelerometry
  • Ageing
  • Bone
  • Middle adulthood
  • Muscle
  • Self-reported physical activity


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