a1 Department of Human Biology, Maastricht University, PO Box 616, 6200, MD, Maastricht, The Netherlands
Activity intensity is a potential determinant of activity-induced energy expenditure. Tri-axial accelerometery is the most objective measurement technique for the assessment of activity intensity, in combination with doubly-labelled water for the measurement of energy expenditure under free-living conditions. Data on the effects of subject characteristics, including body size and age, and exercise training on the relationship between activity intensity and daily energy expenditure are reviewed. Average daily metabolic rate and non-basal energy expenditure are positively related to body size. The duration and intensity of physical activities do not need to be equivalent to the energy spent on activity. Obese subjects spend more energy on physical activity but can perform fewer activities, especially high-intensity (weight-bearing) activities, because of their higher body weight. Physical activity generally declines gradually from about 60 years of age onwards. Most subjects >80 years have an activity level well below the level defined for sedentary middle-aged adults. Spending relatively more time on low-intensity activities has a negative effect on the mean physical activity level. To obtain a higher physical activity level does not necessarily imply high-intensity activities. In an average subject 25% of the activity-induced energy expenditure may be attributed to high-intensity activities. Exercise training, as a form of high-intensity activity, affects the physical activity level more in younger subjects than in elderly subjects.