Physical Activity

Physical activity, inclusive of either aerobic activity or muscle strengthening exercise, has been linked to decreased risks of various cancers and improved physical and emotional functioning among cancer survivors, whereas sedentary behavior—sitting or lying down (while awake)—has been associated with increased risk and poorer prognosis for various cancers. Sedentary behavior has increasingly been recognized as an independent risk factor and is distinguishable from lack of physical activity in terms of conceptualization, measurement, and intervention approach.


To better understand and improve/reduce physical activity/sedentary behavior in the U.S. population, the Health Behaviors Research Branch focuses on research related to:

  • physical activity interventions and programs
  • behavioral assessment of physical activity and/or sedentary activity
  • physiological assessment of physical activity (e.g., physiological fitness)
  • mechanisms of physical activity/sedentary behavior change
  • multiple health behaviors associated with exercise, use of technology (e.g., cell phones and other mobile devices) to intervene on physical activity/sedentary behaviors
  • environmental aspects of physical activity
  • policy and physical activity
  • genetic aspects of physical activity and physical fitness
  • addressing the interplay between physical fitness
  • obesity, and cancer relevant outcomes
  • addressing mechanisms of physical activity behavior change and innovative use of theory and state of the art methodology
  • novel approaches for sedentary behavior intervention, mechanisms of sedentary behavior change, and innovative use and development of behavioral theory and methodology

Funding Opportunities

Title Announcement # Expiration Date Contact
Stimulating Innovations in Behavioral Intervention Research for Cancer Prevention and Control

More Information

PAR-19-309 (R21 Clinical Trial Optional) September 8, 2022 Tanya Agurs-Collins
Notice of Special Interest (NOSI): Developing and Testing Multilevel Physical Activity Interventions to Improve Health and Well-Being NOT-OD-21-087 February 16, 2024 Frank Perna
Dietary, Physical Activity, Sedentary Behavior and Sleep Assessment Methodologies Among Infants and Young Children (Birth to 5 years) through Adults NOT-CA-21-108 May 8, 2023 Kirsten Herrick

Data and Tools

National Collaborative on Childhood Obesity Research (NCCOR) Measures Registry Resource Suite

Assess diet, physical activity, and the environments in which these behaviors occur through this searchable database of diet and physical activity measures. Also find User Guides and Learning Modules for assistance with your research or evaluation projects.

National Collaborative on Childhood Obesity Research (NCCOR) Catalogue of Surveillance Systems

Access over 100 publicly available datasets relevant to childhood obesity research, including health behaviors, outcomes, and determinants, and policies and environmental factors.

ACT24 Physical Activity Recall Tool

Estimate previous-day summary values for physical activity and sedentary behavior with this free, web-based recall instrument that complements the ASA24 Dietary Assessment Tool.

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Accumulating Data to Optimally Predict Obesity Treatment (ADOPT) Core Measures Project

This project identified a standard set of 50 core measures, or factors, that can be analyzed across studies to better understand the variation in response to obesity treatments.

ADOPT Core Measures: Environmental Domain. Access data layers and/or detailed methods for the environmental variables recommended by the ADOPT environmental working group.

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Classification of Laws Associated with School Students (CLASS)

Use data from this website to compare state laws on nutrition and physical education between states and policy changes over time.

Learn more about CLASS

Family Life, Activity, Sun, Health, and Eating (FLASHE) Study

Understand the lifestyle behaviors that relate to cancer risk with this collection of psychosocial, generational, and environmental survey data.

Learn More About FLASHE

Health Information National Trends Survey (HINTS)

Study various aspects of health communication in the U.S. with these publicly available data about the public’s use of cancer-related information.

Obtain HINTS Data

The Interactive Diet and Activity Tracking in AARP (IDATA) Study Data

Access these data for studies of physical activity and nutrition.

Learn More

National Collaborative on Childhood Obesity Research (NCCOR) Youth Compendium of Physical Activities

View a list of 196 common activities in which youth participate and the estimated energy cost associated with each activity. The data can be used in research, public health policy making, education, and interventions to encourage physical activity in youth.

National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) Cancer Control Supplement (CCS)

NHIS and the CCS are widely used to track self-reported health behaviors and health status for diverse public health and research goals including evaluation of Healthy People objectives.

Learn More About The Survey

National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES)

NHANES is a key component of the Federal Health Surveillance system, notable for its inclusion of behavioral, biological and health status questions. A unique feature is that NHANES is the only nationally representative health survey to include device-based measurement of activity with accelerometers and objective measurements of strength using handgrip dynamometry.

Learn More

Updated Compendium of Physical Activities

View the estimated energy expenditure values for adults for a wide variety of activities. Energy expenditure values are important for connecting physical activity behavior and health.

Youth Compendium of Physical Activities Exit Disclaimer: Access a list of 196 common activities in which youth participate and the estimated energy cost associated with each activity.

Evidence-Based Cancer Control Programs

This searchable database of evidence-based cancer control programs provides program planners and public health practitioners easy and immediate access to programs tested in a research study, publication(s) of the study findings, and program materials used with a particular study population in a specific setting.

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Watts EL, Matthews CE, Freeman JR, Gorzelitz JS, Hong HG, Liao LM, McClain KM, Saint-Maurice PF, Shiroma EJ, Moore SC. Association of Leisure Time Physical Activity Types and Risks of All-Cause, Cardiovascular, and Cancer Mortality Among Older Adults. JAMA Netw Open. 2022 Aug 1;5(8):e2228510. doi: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2022.28510. PMID: 36001316.

Saint-Maurice PF, Graubard BI, Troiano RP, Berrigan D, Galuska DA, Fulton JE, Matthews CE. Estimated Number of Deaths Prevented Through Increased Physical Activity Among US Adults. JAMA Intern Med. 2022 Mar 1;182(3):349-352. doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2021.7755

Belcher BR, Wolff-Hughes DL, Dooley EE, Staudenmayer J, Berrigan D, Eberhardt MS, Troiano RP. U.S. Population-referenced Percentiles for Wrist-Worn Accelerometer-derived Activity. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2021 Jun 11 doi:1249/MSS.0000000000002726 

Piekarz-Porter E, Lin W, Leider J, Turner L, Perna F, Chriqui JF. State laws matter when it comes to school provisions for structured PE and daily PE participation. Transl Behav Med. 2021 Mar 16;11(2):597-603. doi: 10.1093/tbm/ibaa013. PMID: 32115650; PMCID: PMC7963275.

Reed JA, Ballard RM, Hill M, Berrigan D. Identification of Effective Programs to Improve Access to and Use of Trails among Youth from Under-Resourced Communities: A Review. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020 Oct 22;17(21):7707. doi: 10.3390/ijerph17217707 

Tribby CP, Oh A, Perna F, Berrigan D. Adolescent Physical Activity at Public Schools, Private Schools, and Homeschools, United States, 2014. Prev Chronic Dis. 2020 Aug 20;17:E85. doi: 10.5888/pcd17.190450

Watson KB, Whitfield GP, Thomas JV, Berrigan D, Fulton JE, Carlson SA. Associations between the National Walkability Index and walking among US Adults - National Health Interview Survey, 2015. Prev Med. 2020;137:106122. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2020.106122 

Lin W, Leider J, Shang C, Hennessy E, Perna FM, Chriqui JF. The Association Between State Physical Education Laws and Student Physical Activity. Am J Prev Med. 2020 Mar;58(3):436-445. doi:  10.1016/j.amepre.2019.09.018. Epub 2019 Dec 20. PMID: 31870591.

Campbell KL, Winters-Stone KM, Wiskemann J, et al. Exercise guidelines for cancer survivors: Consensus statement from International Multidisciplinary Roundtable. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2019;51(11):2375-2390. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000002116

Sprague N, Berrigan D, Ekenga CC. An Analysis of the Educational and Health-Related Benefits of Nature-Based Environmental Education in Low-Income Black and Hispanic Children. Health Equity. 2020 May 18;4(1):198-210. doi: 10.1089/heq.2019.0118 

Matthews CE, Berrigan D, Fischer B, et al. Use of previous-day recalls of physical activity and sedentary behavior in epidemiologic studies: results from four instruments. BMC Public Health. 2019 Jun 3;19(Suppl 2):478. doi: 10.1186/s12889-019-6763-8 

2017 Theme Issue on the FLASHE Study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine

Perna FM, Coa K, Troiano RP, et al. Muscular grip strength estimates of the U.S. population from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2011-2012. J Strength Cond Res. 2016;30(3):867-874. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000001104 

Lawman HG, Troiano RP, Perna FM, Wang CY, Fryar CD, Ogden CL. Associations of relative handgrip strength and cardiovascular disease biomarkers in U.S. adults, 2011-2012. Am J Prev Med. 2016;50(6):677-683. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2015.10.022 

Ottenbacher A, Yu M, Moser RP, Phillips SM, Alfano C, Perna FM. Population estimates of meeting strength training and aerobic guidelines, by gender and cancer survivorship status: Findings from the Health Information National Trends Survey (HINTS). J Phys Act Health. 2015;12(5):675-679. doi: 10.1123/jpah.2014-0003 

Moore SC, Patel AV, Matthews CE, Berrington de Gonzalez A, Park Y, Katki HA, Linet MS, Weiderpass E, Visvanathan K, Helzlsouer KJ, Thun M, Gapstur SM, Hartge P, Lee IM. Leisure time physical activity of moderate to vigorous intensity and mortality: a large pooled cohort analysis. PLoS Med. 2012;9(11):e1001335. doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1001335. Epub 2012 Nov 6. PMID: 23139642; PMCID: PMC3491006. 



Last Updated
September 08, 2022