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Methods of measurement in epidemiology: sedentary behaviour

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Publication Date: 2012-10-01

Alternative Title: Measuring sedentary behaviour in epidemiology

Journal Title: International Journal of Epidemiology

Publisher: Oxford University Press

Volume: 41

Issue: 5

Pages: 1460-1471

Language: English

Type: Article

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Citation: Atkin, A. J., Gorely, T., Clemes, S. A., Yates, T., Edwardson, C., Brage, S., Salmon, J., et al. (2012). Methods of measurement in epidemiology: sedentary behaviour. International Journal of Epidemiology, 41 (5), 1460-1471.

Description: This is the author accepted manuscript. The final version is available at

Abstract: 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, for example questionnaires, have focussed predominantly upon 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. Miniaturisation 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, though new instruments, both objective and subjective, show considerable promise and warrant further testing.

Keywords: sedentary behaviour, epidemiology, validity, reliability

Sponsorship: NIHR Leicester-Loughborough Diet, Lifestyle and Physical Activity Biomedical Research Unit is funded by the National Institute for Health Research.


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Author: Atkin, Andrew J.Gorely, TrishClemes, Stacy A.Yates, ThomasEdwardson, CharlotteBrage, SørenSalmon, JoMarshall, Simon J.Biddle, Stu



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