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MT3: Physical Activity and Reduced Sedentary Behavior*

Framework Component

Changes - Physical Activity and Reduced Sedentary Behavioral Changes

Indicator Description

Two-part indicator measuring behavioral changes to increase physical activity and/or reduce sedentary behavior. Physical activity is defined as any body movement that works muscles and requires more energy than resting. Sedentary behavior is defined as too much sitting or lying down at work, at home, in social settings, and during leisure time. Both increasing physical activity and decreasing sedentary behaviors is important for overall health.

*SNAP-Ed Priority Outcome Indicator

Background and Context

Physical activity education and training is an important component of SNAP-Ed. Since the passage of both the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010 and the Agricultural Act of 2014 (the Farm Bill), SNAP-Ed programs are consistently emphasizing physical activity that is appropriate for age and ability levels. Studies indicate that moving more during the day, in addition to getting the daily 30 minutes of moderate activity on a daily basis, is necessary. Both increasing physical activity and reducing sedentary behavior should be considered in obesity prevention programming and evaluation. A lack of physical activity (too little exercise) and too much sedentary behavior change the body in different ways and should be measured separately. For example, programs designed to reduce obesity by increasing physical activity may not be effective if sedentary behavior remains high.

Outcome Measures

This indicator focuses on progress toward meeting the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans (see Appendix B), which is the physical activity counterpart to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The following is a list of sample areas for measuring outcomes by age group related to behavior change.

Increased Physical Activity, Fitness, and Leisure Sport. Increases in duration, intensity, and frequency of exercise, physical activity, or leisure sport appropriate for the population of interest, and types of activities.

  • MT3a. Physical activity and leisure sport (general physical activity or leisure sport)
  • MT3b. Physical activity when you breathed harder than normal (moderate-vigorous physical activity)
  • MT3c. Physical activity to make your muscles stronger muscular strength
  • MT3d. Physical education or gym class activities (school PE)
  • MT3e. Recess, lunchtime, classroom, before/after school physical activities (school activities-non-PE)
  • MT3f. Walking steps during period assessed (e.g., increasing daily goal by ≥2,000 steps)

Reduced Sedentary Behavior. Decreases in time spent in sedentary behavior (computers, desk sitting, television watching) during the period assessed.

  • MT3g. Television viewing
  • MT3h. Computer and video games
  • MT3i.  Sitting on weekdays while at work, at home, while doing course work, and during leisure time

Increased Physical Fitness. Increases in health-related physical fitness levels (aerobic or cardio fitness, muscular strength, muscular endurance, and flexibility.

  • MT3j. Aerobic or cardio fitness, muscular strength, muscular endurance and/or flexibility

What to Measure

Evaluators may choose among data collection methods, including self-reported questionnaires and direct measurement using parent observation, pedometers, or fitness tests. There are tradeoffs for each data collection tool in terms of cost, time, and participant burden. While evaluators are encouraged to triangulate outcomes using multiple data sources, at a minimum, this indicator can be satisfied through self-administered participant questionnaires. Measure SNAP-Ed participants who increase physical activity, fitness, and leisure sport and/or reduce sedentary behavior during the period assessed.
  • Physical activity or leisure sport assessments should measure the dimensions of the activity performed including intensity (how hard), frequency (how often), and duration (how long) using self-report in minutes, days, etc., using a Likert scale or an observation tool.
  • Sedentary behavior is assessed using a self-report survey or observational tool to measure the amount of time spent sitting over a set period. This should not be confused with screen time which, although is generally sedentary in nature, measures exposure to electronic screens such as phones, televisions, or computers. Sedentary behavior may involve screen time, but should include lying down, sitting, reading books, drawing, writing, and other non-screen-related inactivity (<1.5 METS, or the Metabolic Equivalent of Task).
  • Physical fitness assessments should measure the dimensions of the fitness of the individual, which may reflect their physical activity levels including muscular strength, muscular endurance, aerobic or cardio fitness, and flexibility.
Possible behavior change measurements for physical activity and reduced sedentary behavior include:
  • Increases in frequency (number of days)
  • Increases in time (number of minutes)
  • Increases in physical fitness (cardiovascular, flexibility, muscular strength)
  • Increases in intensity (moderate or vigorous)
  • Increases in number of steps
  • Decreases in screen time (computer, video games, TV)
The survey and data collection tools used to assess physical activity and sedentary behaviors should be used in LT3 when assessing long-term change (6 months or longer).


Older adults, adults, adolescents, children, preschoolers and toddlers (via parents, teachers, or child care providers)

Surveys and Data Collection Tools



Direct measurements
Following are options for direct measurement of MT3 outcome measures.


Direct Measurements
Following are three options for direct measurement of MT3 outcome measures.

Additional Resources or Supporting Citations

Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans -

Rhodes RE, Mark RS, Temmel CP. (2012). Adult sedentary behavior: A systematic review. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 42(3), e3.