Open Access Open Badges Research article

Distinguishing four components underlying physical activity: a new approach to using physical activity questionnaire data in old age

Lisanne M Verweij1*, Natasja M van Schoor1, Joost Dekker12 and Marjolein Visser13

Author Affiliations

1 EMGO Institute for Health and Care Research, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, the Netherlands

2 Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, the Netherlands

3 Institute of Health Sciences, Faculty of Earth and Life Sciences, VU University, Amsterdam, the Netherlands

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BMC Geriatrics 2010, 10:20  doi:10.1186/1471-2318-10-20

Published: 3 May 2010



It is evident that physical activity has many benefits, but it often remains unclear which types of activity are optimal for health and functioning in old age. The aim of this methodological study was to propose a method for distinguishing four components underlying self reported physical activity of older adults: intensity, muscle strength, turning actions and mechanical strain.


Physical activity was assessed by the validated LAPAQ questionnaire among 1699 older adults of the Longitudinal Aging Study Amsterdam. Based on expert consultation and literature review, the four component scores for several individual daily and sports activities were developed. Factor analysis was performed to confirm whether the developed components indeed measured different constructs of physical activity.


Based on the factor analyses, three components were distinguished: 1. intensity and muscle strength loaded on the same factor, 2. mechanical strain and 3. turning actions. Analyses in gender, age and activity level subgroups consistently distinguished three factors.


Future research using these components may contribute to our understanding of how specific daily and sports activities may have a different influence on health and physical functioning in old age.