Reliability, minimal detectable change and responsiveness to change: indicators to select the best method to measure sedentary behaviour in older adults in different study designs

Manon L. Dontje, Philippa M. Dall, Dawn A. Skelton, Jason M.R. Gill, Sebastien F.M. Chastin

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Prolonged sedentary behaviour (SB) is associated with poor health. It is unclear which SB measure is most appropriate for interventions and population surveillance to measure and interpret change in behaviour in older adults. The aims of this study: to examine the relative and absolute reliability, Minimal Detectable Change (MDC) and responsiveness to change of subjective and objective methods of measuring SB in older adults and give recommendations of use for different study designs.
SB of 18 older adults (aged 71 (IQR 7) years) was assessed using a systematic set of six subjective tools, derived from the TAxonomy of Self report Sedentary behaviour Tools (TASST), and one objective tool (activPAL3c), over 14 days. Relative reliability (Intra Class Correlation coefficients-ICC), absolute reliability (SEM), MDC, and the relative responsiveness (Cohen’s d effect size (ES) and Guyatt’s Responsiveness coefficient (GR)) were calculated for each of the different tools and ranked for different study designs.
ICC ranged from 0.414 to 0.946, SEM from 36.03 to 137.01 min, MDC from 1.66 to 8.42 hours, ES from 0.017 to 0.259 and GR from 0.024 to 0.485. Objective average day per week measurement ranked as most responsive in a clinical practice setting, whereas a one day measurement ranked highest in quasi-experimental, longitudinal and controlled trial study designs. TV viewing – Previous Week Recall (PWR) ranked as most responsive subjective measure in all study designs.
The reliability, Minimal Detectable Change and responsiveness to change of subjective and objective methods of measuring SB is context dependent. Although TV viewing-PWR is the more reliable and responsive subjective method in most situations, it may have limitations as a reliable measure of total SB. Results of this study can be used to guide choice of tools for detecting change in sedentary behaviour in older adults in the contexts of population surveillance, intervention evaluation and individual care.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0195424
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 12 Apr 2018



  • sedentary behaviour
  • health interventions
  • older adults

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