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Methods of measurement in epidemiology: sedentary behaviour

journal contribution
posted on 2015-02-05, 16:27 authored by Andrew J. Atkin, Trish Gorely, Stacy ClemesStacy Clemes, Thomas E. Yates, Charlotte L. Edwardson, Soren Brage, Jo Salmon, Simon J. Marshall, Stuart Biddle
Background Research examining sedentary behaviour as a potentially independent risk factor for chronic disease morbidity and mortality has expanded rapidly in recent years. Methods We present a narrative overview of the sedentary behaviour measurement literature. Subjective and objective methods of measuring sedentary behaviour suitable for use in population-based research with children and adults are examined. The validity and reliability of each method is considered, gaps in the literature specific to each method identified and potential future directions discussed. Results To date, subjective approaches to sedentary behaviour measurement, e.g. questionnaires, have focused predominantly on TV viewing or other screen-based behaviours. Typically, such measures demonstrate moderate reliability but slight to moderate validity. Accelerometry is increasingly being used for sedentary behaviour assessments; this approach overcomes some of the limitations of subjective methods, but detection of specific postures and postural changes by this method is somewhat limited. Instruments developed specifically for the assessment of body posture have demonstrated good reliability and validity in the limited research conducted to date. Miniaturization of monitoring devices, interoperability between measurement and communication technologies and advanced analytical approaches are potential avenues for future developments in this field. Conclusions High-quality measurement is essential in all elements of sedentary behaviour epidemiology, from determining associations with health outcomes to the development and evaluation of behaviour change interventions. Sedentary behaviour measurement remains relatively under-developed, although new instruments, both objective and subjective, show considerable promise and warrant further testing.


The NIHR Leicester-Loughborough Diet, Lifestyle and Physical Activity Biomedical Research Unit is funded by the National Institute for Health Research. The work of Andrew Atkin was supported, in part, by the Centre for Diet and Activity Research (CEDAR), a UK Clinical Research Collaboration Public Health Research Centre of Excellence (RES-590-28-0002). Funding from the British Heart Foundation, Economic and Social Research Council, Medical Research Council, the National Institute for Health Research, and the Wellcome Trust, under the auspices of the UK Clinical Research Collaboration, is gratefully acknowledged. The work of Soren Brage was supported by the Medical Research Council (MC_ U106179473). Jo Salmon is supported by a National Health & Medical Research Council of Australia Principal Research Fellowship (APP1026216). The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Leicester-Loughborough Diet, Lifestyle and Physical Activity Biomedical Research Unit is funded by the National Institute for Health Research.



  • Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences

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1460 - 1471 (12)


ATKIN, A.J. ... et al, 2012. Methods of measurement in epidemiology: sedentary behaviour. International Journal of Epidemiology, 41 (5), pp. 1460 - 1471.


Oxford University Press on behalf of the International Epidemiological Association / © The Authors


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This work is made available according to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) licence. Full details of this licence are available at: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/

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