BACKGROUND: Intensity and duration of physical activity are associated with the achievement of health benefits. Our aim was to characterize physical activity behavior in terms of intensity, duration pattern, and adherence to the WHO physical activity recommendations in a population-based sample of adults from southern Germany. Further, we investigated associations between physical activity and sex, age, and body mass index (BMI), considering also common chronic diseases. METHODS: We analyzed 475 subjects (47% males, mean age 58 years, range 48-68 years) who wore ActiGraph accelerometers for up to seven days. Measured accelerations per minute obtained from the vertical axis (uniaxial) and the vector magnitude of all three axes (triaxial) were classified as sedentary, light or moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) according to predefined acceleration count cut-offs. The average minutes/day spent in each activity level per subject served as outcome. Associations of sex, age, BMI, and seven chronic diseases or health limitations, with the activity levels were analyzed by negative binomial regression. RESULTS: Most of the wear time was spent in sedentarism (median 61%/day), whereas the median time spent in MVPA was only 3%, with men achieving more MVPA than women (35 vs. 28 minutes/day, p<0.05). Almost two thirds of MVPA was achieved in short bouts of less than 5 minutes, and 35% of the subjects did not achieve a single 10-minute bout. Hence, only 14% adhered to the WHO recommendation of 2.5 hours of MVPA/week in at least 10-minute bouts. Females, older subjects and obese subjects spent less time in MVPA (p<0.05), but no clear association with hypertension, asthma, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, anxiety/depression, pain or walking difficulties was observed in regression analyses with MVPA as outcome. CONCLUSIONS: Activity behavior among middle-aged German adults was highly insufficient, indicating a further need for physical activity promotion in order to gain health benefits.