Open Access Research article

Older adults’ reporting of specific sedentary behaviors: validity and reliability

Jelle Van Cauwenberg123*, Veerle Van Holle23, Ilse De Bourdeaudhuij2, Neville Owen4 and Benedicte Deforche1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Human Biometry and Biomechanics, Faculty of Physical Education and Physical Therapy, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Pleinlaan 2, 1050 Brussels, Belgium

2 Department of Movement and Sport Sciences, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Ghent University, Watersportlaan 2, 9000 Ghent, Belgium

3 Fund for Scientific Research Flanders (FWO), Egmontstraat 5, 1000 Brussels, Belgium

4 Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute, The University of Queensland, Melbourne University and Monash University, Commercial Rd, Melbourne 3004Victoria, Australia

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BMC Public Health 2014, 14:734  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-14-734

Published: 21 July 2014



Previous questionnaires targeting older adults’ sedentary time have underestimated total sedentary time, possibly by not including all relevant specific sedentary behaviors. The current study aimed to investigate the criterion validity and test-retest reliability of a new questionnaire assessing a comprehensive set of sedentary behaviors. Additionally, we examined whether the criterion validity of the questionnaire differed according to age, gender and educational level.


A sample of home-dwelling Belgian older adults (>64 years, n = 508) completed a newly-developed questionnaire assessing twelve specific sedentary behaviors and wore an accelerometer for seven consecutive days as criterion measure. A subsample (n = 28) completed the questionnaire a second time to examine test-retest reliability. Data collection occurred between September 2010 and October 2012.


Correlational analyses examining self-reported total sitting time and accelerometer-derived sedentary time yielded a Spearman’s ρ of 0.30. Using the Bland-Altman regression procedure, self-reported total sitting time underestimated accelerometer-derived sedentary time by -82 minutes/day for a participant with an average level of sedentary time (539 minutes/day). Corresponding 95% limits of agreement were wide (-364, 200 minutes/day). Better, but still not ideal, validity findings were observed in the younger, male and tertiary-educated subgroups. Acceptable test-retest reliability (ICC > 0.70) was found for total sitting time, TV viewing, computer use, and driving a car.


Validity for older adults’ self-reported total sitting time against accelerometer-derived sedentary time was not strong, but comparable to previous studies. However, underestimation of total sedentary time was lower compared to previous studies, possibly explained by the inclusion of additional specific sedentary behaviors. Further research is needed to develop self-report tools and objective criterion measures that accurately measure engagement in (specific) sedentary behavior(s) among different subgroups of the older population.

Sitting time; Television viewing; Psychometrics; Seniors; Self-report; Accelerometers