Review| Volume 13, ISSUE 5, P496-502, September 2010

Download started.


Position statement on physical activity and exercise intensity terminology

Published:December 11, 2009DOI:


      The terminology used for monitoring and promoting physical activity and exercise among health and fitness professionals varies considerably. There is a large array of descriptor terms reported in the literature and used in day-to-day practice and this inconsistency can be confusing for clients and practitioners alike. The variation in terminology also makes it difficult to track changes in activity patterns over time and across studies. There are also a range of objective and relative intensity cut-offs used to describe the same intensity descriptors. This position statement addresses the question of standardisation of physical activity and exercise intensity terminology and makes recommendations that should assist those undertaking research and prescribing physical activity/exercise as well as those clients who are receiving professional guidance.


      To read this article in full you will need to make a payment

      Purchase one-time access:

      Academic & Personal: 24 hour online accessCorporate R&D Professionals: 24 hour online access
      One-time access price info
      • For academic or personal research use, select 'Academic and Personal'
      • For corporate R&D use, select 'Corporate R&D Professionals'


      Subscribe to Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport
      Already a print subscriber? Claim online access
      Already an online subscriber? Sign in
      Institutional Access: Sign in to ScienceDirect


        • American College of Sports Medicine [ACSM]
        ACSM's guidelines for exercise testing and prescription.
        8th ed. Williams & Wilkins, New York2009
        • Faude O.
        • Kindermann W.
        • Meyer T.
        Lactate threshold concepts how valid are they?.
        Sports Med. 2009; 39: 469-490
        • Solberg G.
        • Robstad B.
        • Skjønsberg O.H.
        • et al.
        Respiratory gas exchange indices for estimating the anaerobic threshold.
        J Sport Sci Med. 2005; 4: 29-36
        • Richardson R.S.
        • Kennedy B.
        • Knight D.R.
        • et al.
        High muscle blood flows are not attenuated by recruitment of additional muscle mass.
        AJP: Heart Circ Physiol. 1995; 269: H1545-1552
        • Tidgren B.
        • Hjemdahl P.
        • Theodorsson E.
        • et al.
        Renal neurohormonal and vascular responses to dynamic exercise in humans.
        J Appl Physiol. 1991; 70: 2279-2286
        • Bawa P.
        Neural control of motor output: can training change it?.
        Exerc Sport Sci Rev. 2002; 30: 59-63
        • Borg G.
        Borg's perceived exertion and pain scales.
        Human Kinetics, Champaign, IL1998
        • Noble B.J.
        • Borg G.A.V.
        • Jacobs I.R.A.
        • et al.
        A category-ratio perceived exertion scale: relationship to blood and muscle lactates and heart rate.
        Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1983; 15: 523-528
        • Ainsworth B.
        • Bassett D.R.
        • Strath S.J.
        • et al.
        Comparison of three methods for measuring the time spent in physical activity.
        Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2000; 32: S457-S464
        • Montoye H.J.
        Introduction: evaluation of some measurements of physical activity and energy expenditure.
        Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2000; 32: S439-441
        • Strath S.J.
        • Swartz A.M.
        • Bassett D.R.
        • et al.
        Evaluation of heart rate as a method for assessing moderate intensity physical activity.
        Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2000; 32: S465-S470
        • American College of Sports Medicine [ACSM]
        ACSM's guidelines for exercise testing and prescription.
        7th ed. Williams & Wilkins, New York2006
        • American College of Sports Medicine [ACSM]
        ACSM's guidelines for exercise testing and prescription.
        6th ed. Williams & Wilkins, New York2000
        • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services [USDHHS]
        Physical activity and health: a report of the surgeon general.
        U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Physical Activity and Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, International Medical Publishing, Atlanta, GA1996
        • Ainsworth B.
        • Haskell W.L.
        • Whitt M.C.
        • et al.
        Compendium of physical activities: an update of activity codes and MET intensities.
        Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2000; 32: S498-S504
      1. Department of Arts, Sport, the Environment and Territories [DASET]. Pilot survey of the fitness of Australians, Canberra; 1992.

        • Pate R.R.
        • O’Neill J.
        • Lobelo F.
        The evolving definition of ‘sedentary’.
        Exerc Sport Sci Rev. 2008; 36: 173-178
        • Hu F.B.
        • Leitzamnn M.F.
        • Stampfer M.J.
        • et al.
        Physical activity and television watching in relation to risk for type 2 diabetes mellitus in men.
        Arch Int Med. 2001; 161: 1542-1548
        • Hu F.B.
        • Li T.Y.
        • Colditz G.A.
        • et al.
        Television watching and other sedentary behaviours in relation to risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes mellitus in women.
        JAMA. 2003; 289: 1785-1791
        • Warburton D.E.R.
        • Nicol C.W.
        • Bredin S.S.D.
        Health benefits of physical activity: the evidence.
        CMAJ. 2006; 174: 801-809
        • Healy G.N.
        • Dunstan D.W.
        • Salmon J.
        • et al.
        Breaks in sedentary time: beneficial associations with metabolic risk.
        Diabetes Care. 2008; 31: 661-666
        • Healy G.N.
        • Dunstan D.
        • Salmon J.
        • et al.
        Objectively measured light-intensity physical activity is independently associated with 2-hr plasma glucose.
        Diabetes Care. 2007; 30: 1384-1389
        • Salmon J.
        • Bauman A.
        • Crawford D.
        • et al.
        The association between television viewing and overweight among Australian adults participating in various levels of leisure-time physical activity.
        Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2000; 24: 600-606
        • [AAS] Active Australia Survey
        A guide and manual for implementation, analysis and reporting.
        AIHW, Canberra2003
        • Gill T.
        • Fullarton S.
        • Taylor A.
        Physical Activity among South Australian Adults, September 2007.
        Population Research and Outcomes Studies Unit, SA Health, Adelaide2008
      2. IPAQ. [accessed July 2009].

      3. Australian Bureau of Statistics [ABS 2009]. National Health Survey: summary of results, Australia, 2007–08. ABS cat. no. 4364.0. ABS: Canberra; 2009.

        • Serraglio A.
        Victorian Population Health Survey 2006.
        Department of Human Services, Victoria2007
        • National Heart Foundation of Australia [NHF]
        Risk Factor Prevalence Study Survey no. 3.
        National Heart Foundation of Australia, Canberra1989
        • Gunn S.
        • Brooks A.
        • Withers R.T.
        • et al.
        Determining energy expenditure during some household and garden tasks.
        Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2002; 34: 895-902
        • Donahoo W.T.
        • Levine J.A.
        • Melanson E.L.
        Variability in energy expenditure and its components.
        Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2004; 7: 599-605
        • Levine J.A.
        • Eberhardt N.L.
        • Jensen M.D.
        Role of nonexercise activity thermogenesis in resistance to fat gain in humans.
        Science. 1999; 283: 212-214
        • Brown W.
        • Bauman A.
        • Chey T.
        • et al.
        Comparison of surveys used to measure physical activity.
        Australian New Zealand Journal of Public Health. 2004; 28: 128-134
        • Haskell W.L.
        • Lee I-Min
        • Pate R.P.
        • et al.
        Physical activity and public health: updated recommendation for adults from the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association.
        Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2007; 39: 1423-1434
        • Bauman A.
        • Ford I.
        • Armstrong T.
        Trends in population levels of reported physical activity in Australia, 1997, 1999 and 2000.
        Australian Sports Commission, Canberra2001
      4. AIHW. Australia's health. Category no. AUS 99, Canberra: AIHW; 2008.

        • Boule N.G.
        • Kenny G.P.
        • Haddad E.
        • et al.
        Meta-analysis of the effect of structured exercise training on cardiorespiratory fitness in type 2 diabetes mellitus.
        Diabetologia. 2003; 46: 1071-1081
        • Lee I.M.
        • Sesso H.D.
        • Oguma Y.
        • et al.
        Relative intensity of physical activity and risk of coronary heart disease.
        Circulation. 2003; 107: 1110-1116
        • Swain D.
        • Franklin B.A.
        Comparison of cardioprotective benefits of vigorous versus moderate intensity aerobic exercise.
        Am J Cardiol. 2006; 97: 141-147