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Objective and subjective measurement of sedentary behavior in human adults: A toolkit

Aunger, Justin; Wagnild, Janelle

Objective and subjective measurement of sedentary behavior in human adults: A toolkit Thumbnail


Justin Aunger


Objectives: Human biologists are increasingly interested in measuring and comparing physical activities in different societies. Sedentary behavior, which refers to time spent sitting or lying down while awake, is a large component of daily 24 hours movement patterns in humans and has been linked to poor health outcomes such as risk of all‐cause and cardiovascular mortality, independently of physical activity. As such, it is important for researchers, with the aim of measuring human movement patterns, to most effectively use resources available to them to capture sedentary behavior. Methods: This toolkit outlines objective (device‐based) and subjective (self‐report) methods for measuring sedentary behavior in free‐living contexts, the benefits and drawbacks to each, as well as novel options for combined use to maximize scientific rigor. Throughout this toolkit, emphasis is placed on considerations for the use of these methods in various field conditions and in varying cultural contexts. Results: Objective measures such as inclinometers are the gold‐standard for measuring total sedentary time but they typically cannot capture contextual information or determine which specific behaviors are taking place. Subjective measures such as questionnaires and 24 hours‐recall methods can provide measurements of time spent in specific sedentary behaviors but are subject to measurement error and response bias. Conclusions: We recommend that researchers use the method(s) that suit the research question; inclinometers are recommended for the measurement of total sedentary time, while self‐report methods are recommended for measuring time spent in particular contexts of sedentary behavior.


Aunger, J., & Wagnild, J. (2022). Objective and subjective measurement of sedentary behavior in human adults: A toolkit. American Journal of Human Biology, 34(1), Article e23546.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Nov 19, 2020
Online Publication Date Dec 5, 2020
Publication Date 2022-01
Deposit Date Dec 9, 2020
Publicly Available Date Dec 9, 2020
Journal American Journal of Human Biology
Print ISSN 1042-0533
Electronic ISSN 1520-6300
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 34
Issue 1
Article Number e23546


Published Journal Article (Advance online version) (2.6 Mb)

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Copyright Statement
Advance online version © 2020 The Authors. American Journal of Human Biology published by Wiley Periodicals LLC. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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