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Brigid M. Lynch, Andrea Ramirez Varela and Terry Boyle

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Joshua A. Nicholas, Geraldine Lo Siou, Brigid M. Lynch, Paula J. Robson, Christine M. Friedenreich and Ilona Csizmadi

Background:

Sedentary behavior has been proposed as a risk factor for obesity that is distinct from physical inactivity. This study aimed to examine the association between occupational sedentary behavior and obesity, and to determine if this association is independent of leisure-time physical activity (LTPA).

Methods:

Fully employed participants enrolled between 2001 and 2008 to Alberta’s Tomorrow Project, a prospective cohort study in Alberta, Canada, were studied (n = 12,409). Associations between occupational sedentary behavior and waist circumference (WC), waist-to-hip ratio (WHR), and body mass index (BMI) were examined using multiple binary and multinomial logistic regressions.

Results:

In men, a positive association was observed between daily occupational sedentary hours and WC, WHR, BMI, and with high risk profiles that incorporated both BMI and WC (P < .01). Controlling for vigorous-intensity LTPA in all models strengthened associations between sedentary behavior and measures of obesity. In contrast, inverse associations were observed for occupational sedentary hours and WHR for women (P < .05).

Conclusions:

In fully employed men, occupational sedentary behavior was positively associated with obesity risk that was not attenuated by physical activity. In women, an increase in obesity risk was not observed with sedentary behavior. Gender differences in the health effects of sedentary behavior require further study.

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Brigid M. Lynch, Suzanne C. Dixon-Suen, Andrea Ramirez Varela, Yi Yang, Dallas R. English, Ding Ding, Paul A. Gardiner and Terry Boyle

Background: It is not always clear whether physical activity is causally related to health outcomes, or whether the associations are induced through confounding or other biases. Randomized controlled trials of physical activity are not feasible when outcomes of interest are rare or develop over many years. Thus, we need methods to improve causal inference in observational physical activity studies. Methods: We outline a range of approaches that can improve causal inference in observational physical activity research, and also discuss the impact of measurement error on results and methods to minimize this. Results: Key concepts and methods described include directed acyclic graphs, quantitative bias analysis, Mendelian randomization, and potential outcomes approaches which include propensity scores, g methods, and causal mediation. Conclusions: We provide a brief overview of some contemporary epidemiological methods that are beginning to be used in physical activity research. Adoption of these methods will help build a stronger body of evidence for the health benefits of physical activity.

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Brigid M. Lynch, Charles E. Matthews, Katrien Wijndaele and on behalf of the Sedentary Behaviour Council of the International Society for Physical Activity and Health

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Paddy C. Dempsey, Chuck E. Matthews, S. Ghazaleh Dashti, Aiden R. Doherty, Audrey Bergouignan, Eline H. van Roekel, David W. Dunstan, Nicholas J. Wareham, Thomas E. Yates, Katrien Wijndaele and Brigid M. Lynch

Background: Recent updates to physical activity guidelines highlight the importance of reducing sedentary time. However, at present, only general recommendations are possible (ie, “Sit less, move more”). There remains a need to investigate the strength, temporality, specificity, and dose–response nature of sedentary behavior associations with chronic disease, along with potential underlying mechanisms. Methods: Stemming from a recent research workshop organized by the Sedentary Behavior Council themed “Sedentary behaviour mechanisms—biological and behavioural pathways linking sitting to adverse health outcomes,” this paper (1) discusses existing challenges and scientific discussions within this advancing area of science, (2) highlights and discusses emerging areas of interest, and (3) points to potential future directions. Results: A brief knowledge update is provided, reflecting upon current and evolving thinking/discussions, and the rapid accumulation of new evidence linking sedentary behavior to chronic disease. Research “action points” are made at the end of each section—spanning from measurement systems and analytic methods, genetic epidemiology, causal mediation, and experimental studies to biological and behavioral determinants and mechanisms. Conclusion: A better understanding of whether and how sedentary behavior is causally related to chronic disease will allow for more meaningful conclusions in the future and assist in refining clinical and public health policies/recommendations.