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NHANES Physical Activity and Cardiovascular Fitness Data Tutorial

Physical Activity and Cardiovascular Fitness Data Overview


This module provides an overview of physical activity and cardiovascular fitness data collected by the NHANES through the physical activity questionnaire (PAQ), the cardiovascular fitness examination (CVX), and the physical activity monitor examination (PAX).  We present these three separate components of the NHANES together because they each cover topics related to physical activity.  Analysts may wish to combine these components in their analyses or consider each component individually to assess health outcomes.  We briefly describe the history of physical activity and cardiovascular fitness research, NHANES data collection methods, and applications of the data. 


Task 1: Provide an Overview of Physical Activity and Cardiovascular Fitness Research

Physical activity emerged as a modifiable protective factor for cardiovascular disease (CVD) during large-scale epidemiologic studies conducted during the 1950s.  Later research surrounding the inverse dose-response relationship between physical activity and CVD laid a foundation for the provision of guidelines on the volume, intensity, and frequency of physical activity associated with decreased risk of cardiovascular and other chronic disease.


Task 2: Describe NHANES Physical Activity and Cardiovascular Fitness Data Collection Methods

NHANES has collected physical activity and fitness data through a (1) physical activity questionnaire, (2) cardiovascular fitness examination , and (3) use of an accelerometer-based physical activity monitor among selected study participants.  Data retrieved from these three measurement instruments are used to provide a snapshot of physical activity and fitness in the US population.


Task 3: Describe Uses of NHANES Physical Activity Data

The NHANES physical activity and cardiovascular fitness data can be used by researchers as outcomes or covariates for regression analyses and to test for associations between a physical activity or fitness measure and various health outcomes.  The inclusion of objective measures from the cardiovascular fitness and physical activity monitor examinations provides a unique approach to characterizing physical activity performance and estimating cardiovascular fitness.



For an overview of the history, methodologies, and uses of the overall NHANES, visit the Continuous NHANES Web Tutorial.


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