The epigenetic clock and objectively measured sedentary and walking behavior in older adults: the Lothian Birth Cohort 1936

Catharine R. Gale*, Riccardo E. Marioni, Iva Cukic, Sebastien F. Chastin, Philippa M. Dall, Manon L. Dontje, Dawn A. Skelton, Ian J. Deary, Seniors USP Team

*Corresponding author for this work

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Background: Estimates of biological age derived from DNA-methylation patterns, --known as the epigenetic clock—are associated with mortality, physical and cognitive function, and frailty, but little is known about their relationship with sedentary behaviour or physical activity. We investigated the cross-sectional relationship between two such estimates of biological age and objectively measured sedentary and walking behaviour in older people.

Methods: Participants were 248 members of the Lothian Birth Cohort 1936. At age 79 years, sedentary behaviour and physical activity was measured over 7 days using an activPAL activity monitor. Biological age was estimated using two measures of DNA methylation-based age acceleration—i.e. extrinsic and intrinsic epigenetic age acceleration. We used linear regression to assess the relationship between these two estimates of biological age and average daily time spent sedentary, number of sit-to-stand transitions, and step count.

Results: Of the six associations examined, only two were statistically significant in initial models adjusted for age and sex alone. Greater extrinsic age acceleration was associated with taking fewer steps (regression coefficient (95% CI) -0.100 (-0.008, -0.001), and greater intrinsic age acceleration was associated with making more sit-to-stand transitions (regression coefficient (95% CI) 0.006 (0.0001, 0.012). When we controlled for multiple statistical testing, neither of these associations survived correction (both p=0.17).

Conclusion: In this cross-sectional study of 79-year-olds, we found no convincing evidence that biological age, as indexed by extrinsic or intrinsic epigenetic age acceleration, was associated with objectively measured sedentary or walking behaviour.
Original languageEnglish
Article number4
Number of pages6
JournalClinical Epigenetics
Publication statusPublished - 8 Jan 2018



  • sedentary behavior, physical activity, aging, epigenetic age

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