Physical Activity as a Vital Sign: A Systematic Review
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Physical Activity as a Vital Sign: A Systematic Review

Filetype[PDF-387.96 KB]

  • English

  • Details:

    • Alternative Title:
      Prev Chronic Dis
    • Description:

      Physical activity (PA) is strongly endorsed for managing chronic conditions, and a vital sign tool (indicator of general physical condition) could alert providers of inadequate PA to prompt counseling or referral. This systematic review examined the use, definitions, psychometric properties, and outcomes of brief PA instruments as vital sign measures, with attention primarily to studies focused on arthritis.


      Electronic databases were searched for English-language literature from 1985 through 2016 using the terms PA, exercise, vital sign, exercise referral scheme, and exercise counseling. Of the 838 articles identified for title and abstract review, 9 articles qualified for full text review and data extraction.


      Five brief PA measures were identified: Exercise Vital Sign (EVS), Physical Activity Vital Sign (PAVS), Speedy Nutrition and Physical Activity Assessment (SNAP), General Practice Physical Activity Questionnaire (GPPAQ), and Stanford Brief Activity Survey (SBAS). Studies focusing on arthritis were not found. Over 1.5 years of using EVS in a large hospital system, improvements occurred in relative weight loss among overweight patients and reduction in glycosylated hemoglobin among diabetic patients. On PAVS, moderate physical activity of 5 or more days per week versus fewer than 5 days per week was associated with a lower body mass index (−2.90 kg/m2). Compared with accelerometer-defined physical activity, EVS was weakly correlated (r = 0.27), had low sensitivity (27%–59%), and high specificity (74%–89%); SNAP showed weak agreement (κ = 0.12); GPPAQ had moderate sensitivity (46%) and specificity (50%), and SBAS was weakly correlated (r = 0.10–0.28), had poor to moderate sensitivity (18%–67%), and had moderate specificity (58%–79%).


      Few studies have examined a brief physical activity tool as a vital sign measure. Initial investigations suggest the promise of these simple and quick assessment tools, and research is needed to test the effects of their use on chronic disease outcomes.

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