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Open Access Research

Cross-Sectional analysis of levels and patterns of objectively measured sedentary time in adolescent females

Deirdre M Harrington12*, Kieran P Dowd2, Alan K Bourke3 and Alan E Donnelly2

Author Affiliations

1 Pennington Biomedical Research Center, 6400 Perkins Road, Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70808, USA

2 Department of Physical Education and Sport Sciences, University of Limerick, Limerick, Ireland

3 Department of Electronic and Computer Engineering, University of Limerick, Limerick, Ireland

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International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 2011, 8:120  doi:10.1186/1479-5868-8-120

Published: 28 October 2011

Abstract

Background

Adolescent females have been highlighted as a particularly sedentary population and the possible negative effects of a sedentary lifestyle are being uncovered. However, much of the past sedentary research is based on self-report or uses indirect methods to quantity sedentary time. Total time spent sedentary and the possible intricate sedentary patterns of adolescent females have not been described using objective and direct measure of body inclination. The objectives of this article are to examine the sedentary levels and patterns of a group of adolescent females using the ActivPAL™ and to highlight possible differences in sedentary levels and patterns across the week and within the school day. A full methodological description of how the data was analyzed is also presented.

Methods

One hundred and eleven adolescent females, age 15-18 yrs, were recruited from urban and rural areas in the Republic of Ireland. Participants wore an ActivPAL physical activity monitor for a 7.5 day period. The ActivPAL directly reports total time spent sitting/lying every 15 seconds and accumulation (frequency and duration) of sedentary activity was examined using a customized MATLAB® computer software programme.

Results

While no significant difference was found in the total time spent sitting/lying over the full 24 hour day between weekday and weekend day (18.8 vs. 18.9 hours; p = .911), significantly more sedentary bouts of 1 to 5 minutes and 21 to 40 minutes in duration were accumulated on weekdays compared to weekend days (p < .001). The mean length of each sedentary bout was also longer (9.8 vs. 8.8 minutes; p < .001). When school hours (9 am-3 pm) and after school hours (4 pm-10 pm) were compared, there was no difference in total time spent sedentary (3.9 hours; p = .796) but the pattern of accumulation of the sedentary time differed. There were a greater number of bouts of > 20 minutes duration during school hours than after school hours (4.7 vs. 3.5 bouts; p < .001) while after school time consisted of shorter bouts < 20 minutes.

Conclusions

School is highlighted as a particularly sedentary setting for adolescent females. Interventions to decrease sedentary time at school and the use of wearable devices which distinguish posture should be encouraged when examining sedentary patterns and behaviors in this population.

Keywords:
Sedentary; adolescent females; ActivPAL; sitting; school; methodology