Use of Compositional Data Analysis to Show Estimated Changes in Cardiometabolic Health by Reallocating Time to Light-Intensity Physical Activity in Older Adults

  • Cormac PowellEmail author
  • Leonard D. Browne
  • Brian P. Carson
  • Kieran P. Dowd
  • Ivan J. Perry
  • Patricia M. Kearney
  • Janas M. Harrington
  • Alan E. DonnellyEmail author
Original Research Article



All physical activity (PA) behaviours undertaken over the day, including sleep, sedentary time, standing time, light-intensity PA (LIPA) and moderate-to-vigorous PA (MVPA) have the potential to influence cardiometabolic health. Since these behaviours are mutually exclusive, standard statistical approaches are unable to account for the impact on time spent in other behaviours.


By employing a compositional data analysis (CoDA) approach, this study examined the associations of objectively measured time spent in sleep, sedentary time, standing time, LIPA and MVPA over a 24-h day on markers of cardiometabolic health in older adults.


Participants (n =366; 64.6 years [5.3]; 46% female) from the Mitchelstown Cohort Rescreen Study provided measures of body composition, blood lipid and markers of glucose control. An activPAL3 Micro was used to obtain objective measures of sleep, sedentary time, standing time, LIPA and MVPA, using a 7-day continuous wear protocol. Regression analysis, using geometric means derived from CoDA (based on isometric log-ratio transformed data), was used to examine the relationship between the aforementioned behaviours and markers of cardiometabolic health.


Standing time and LIPA showed diverging associations with markers of body composition. Body mass index (BMI), body mass and fat mass were negatively associated with LIPA (all p <0.05) and positively associated with standing time (all p <0.05). Sedentary time was also associated with higher BMI (p <0.05). No associations between blood markers and any PA behaviours were observed, except for triglycerides, which were negatively associated with standing time (p < 0.05). Reallocating 30 min from sleep, sedentary time or standing time, to LIPA, was associated with significant decreases in BMI, body fat and fat mass.


This is the first study to employ CoDA in older adults that has accounted for sleep, sedentary time, standing time, LIPA and MVPA in a 24-h cycle. The findings support engagement in LIPA to improve body composition in older adults. Increased standing time was associated with higher levels of adiposity, with increased LIPA associated with reduced adiposity; therefore, these findings indicate that replacing standing time with LIPA is a strategy to lower adiposity.



The authors would like to thank the MCR Study participants, the LivingHealth Clinic staff and the Mitchelstown research team involved in the data collection.

Compliance with Ethical Standards


Funding was provided by a University of Limerick Department of Physical Education and Sport Sciences Postgraduate Scholarship Programme (2013–2017) and the Health Research Board Centre for Health and Diet Research (HRB 2007/2013).

Conflict of interest

As per the signed conflicts of interest forms, Cormac Powell, Leonard D. Browne, Brian P. Carson, Kieran P. Dowd, Ivan J. Perry, Patricia M. Kearney, Janas M. Harrington and Alan E. Donnelly have no conflicts of interest to declare.

Ethical approval

All participants gave signed consent to participate in the research study, in addition to having their anonymised data being used for publication. Ethics Committee approval conforming to the Declaration of Helsinki was obtained from the Clinical Research Ethics Committee of University College Cork.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 17 kb)
40279_2019_1153_MOESM2_ESM.docx (20 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (DOCX 19 kb)
40279_2019_1153_MOESM3_ESM.docx (24 kb)
Supplementary material 3 (DOCX 24 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Physical Education and Sport SciencesUniversity of LimerickLimerickIreland
  2. 2.Performance DepartmentSwim Ireland, Sport HQDublinIreland
  3. 3.Graduate Entry Medical SchoolUniversity of LimerickLimerickIreland
  4. 4.Physical Activity for Health Research ClusterUniversity of LimerickLimerickIreland
  5. 5.Health Research InstituteUniversity of LimerickLimerickIreland
  6. 6.Department of Sport and HealthAthlone Institute of TechnologyWestmeathIreland
  7. 7.HRB Centre for Health and Diet Research School of Public HealthUniversity College CorkCorkIreland

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