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The temporalities of tracking sitting time: an exploration of the influence of rhythms and biographies on behavioural change in chronically ill adults and office workers

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posted on 18.03.2019, 09:45 by Amie E. Weedon
This thesis explores how older adults with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and office workers, experienced sitting while wearing a self-tracking device that prompted them to break up and reduce their sitting time. My thesis draws on public health and social science research on self-tracking, as well as the temporality and rhythms literature, and I argue that sitting can be understood in relation to the wider social, personal, biographical and institutional contexts to which my participants related their experiences of the past, present and future, and their changing habitual routines. Findings were based on two studies, the motivations behind which were to encourage participants to reduce their sitting and to deduce whether wearing a self-tracking device would inspire them to do so. The first study was a qualitative nested study which was part of a multidisciplinary randomised control trial. This study investigated the feasibility of self-tracking and an educational booklet created to reduce sitting in older adults with COPD. The qualitative nested study interviewed 25 patients with COPD, both before and after the study, and the first interviews explored the contexts of their lives and sitting, while the second explored how they managed with the device, educational advice and the study as a whole. The second study interviewed 24 office workers about their experiences with a self-tracking device designed to reduce their sitting. Each participant was interviewed both before and after the two-week study period in interview 1, I explored their lives, their work and their experiences and associations with sitting, and in interview 2 I investigated their experiences with the device and the study as a whole. My four analytic chapters answer the following four questions: how do patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and office workers, use a device to self-track their sitting time? What kinds of meanings do patients with COPD and office workers attach to sitting? How do personal and social or institutional temporalities of the past and present, and the rhythms of everyday life, shape participants sitting and self-tracking? And what does the conceptual framework, focusing on meanings, temporalities and rhythms, add to our understanding of health, sitting and self-tracking? The findings of this thesis revealed that the meaning of sitting was different for my two participant groups, in that they were influenced heavily by their experiences with their past, present and future, as well as their daily routines and changes in pace. Therefore, in order to make sense of how these participants understood the meanings of sitting, I adopted a temporality and rhythms framework, which allowed me to make sense of how COPD participants either looked back on their previous lives and reminisced on happy memories, whereby they were mournful and sad about their current lives and changing behaviour, and sitting less was not important to them, or looked toward their futures in anticipation of a healthier life and the ability to do more. The concept of rhythms allowed me to make sense of how some of these participants felt that the self-tracking device and sitting interrupted or did not fit in with their lives and how they often felt that sitting had positive benefits, or where their existing rhythms had been interrupted by their illness and this prevented behavioural change and a reduction in sitting. The concept of rhythms also helped to make sense of those participants who adopted their existing habitual rhythms to encompass sitting less and self-tracking, or those who engaged when their habitual routines coincided with sitting less and self-tracking. In contrast, office workers sitting and self-tracking were related to the workplace, in that they looked back on previous work times when they would make time for their health and take breaks, thus the concept of temporality helped to make sense of this biographical and institutionally dictated time. The concept of rhythms helped to decipher how these participants did not have an issue with health but associated any negative well-being consequences to their increasingly fast-paced and stressful work lives. In addition, their free time was not considered problematic, and so they did not feel the need to change their behaviour or reduce their sitting or self-tracking during this time, as they saw it as an opportunity to gain some form of freedom and do what they wanted to do. Therefore the concept of rhythms provided a way of understanding the different routines of work and home and how the pace of these rhythms differed in speed and intensity. The thesis provides a new perspective on exploring sitting and highlights the importance of exploring both it and self-tracking in relation to the experiences of biographical time (past, present and future) and changing routines. I offer insights into how, by adopting a rhythms and temporality framework, we can make sense of people s experiences of reducing sitting and engaging with self-tracking in order to do so. The thesis brings together literature on public health, self-tracking and place and time, and it argues that by studying the meaning of sitting and adopting a temporality and rhythms framework, the complexity and experience of time and its relationship with chronic illness and work are illuminated, thereby highlighting how time, place and pace are fundamental in understanding sitting and self-tracking.


Loughborough University (studentship).



  • Social Sciences


  • Communication, Media, Social and Policy Studies


© Amie Weedon

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.