Background: Sedentary behavior has received much attention in the scientific community over the past decade. There is growing evidence that sedentary behavior is negatively associated with physical and mental health. However, an in-depth understanding of the social and environmental context of sedentary behavior is missing. Information about sedentary behavior, such as how everyday sedentary behavior occurs throughout the day (eg, number and length of sedentary bouts), where, when, and with whom it takes place, and what people are doing while being sedentary, is useful to inform the development of interventions aimed at reducing sedentary time. However, examining everyday sedentary behavior requires specific methods.
Objective: The purpose of this paper is (1) to introduce sedentary behavior–triggered Ecological Momentary Assessment (EMA) as a methodological advancement in the field of sedentary behavior research and (2) to examine the accuracy of sedentary behavior–triggered EMA in 3 different studies in healthy adults. Moreover, we compare the accuracy of sedentary behavior–triggered EMA to simulations of random-trigger designs.
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Results: Based on the accelerometer recordings, 29.3% (5062/17278) of all sedentary bouts were classified as moderate-to-long (20-40 minutes) and long bouts (≥ 41 minutes). On average, the accuracy by participant was 82.77% (3339/4034; SD 21.01%, range 71.00-88.22%) on the study level. Compared to simulations of random prompts (every 120 minutes), the number of triggered prompts was up to 47.9% (n=704) higher through the sedentary behavior–triggered EMA approach. Nearly 40% (799/2001) of all prolonged sedentary bouts (≥ 20 minutes) occurred during work, and in 57% (1140/2001) of all bouts, the participants were not alone.
Conclusions: Sedentary behavior–triggered EMA is an accurate method for collecting contextual information on sedentary behavior in daily life. Given the growing interest in sedentary behavior research, this sophisticated approach offers a real advancement as it can be used to collect social and environmental contextual information or to unravel dynamic associations. Furthermore, it can be modified to develop sedentary behavior–triggered mHealth interventions.