sedentary behavior, or too much sitting, as distinct from too little exercise, potentially could be a new risk factor for disease.
Lack of physical exercise is often implicated in many disease processes. However, sedentary behavior, or too much sitting, as distinct from too little exercise, potentially could be a new risk factor for disease.
The August issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine features a collection of articles that addresses many aspects of the problem of sedentary behavior, including the relevant behavioral science that will be needed to evaluate whether initiatives to reduce sitting time can be effective and beneficial.
“Epidemiologic and physiologic research on sedentary behavior suggests that there are novel health consequences of prolonged sitting time, which appear to be independent of those attributable to lack of leisure-time physical activity,” Neville Owen, PhD, head of behavioral epidemiology at the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute in Melbourne, Australia, said in a press release.
“However, behavioral research that could lead to effective interventions for influencing sedentary behaviors is less developed, especially so for adults. The purpose of this theme issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine is to propose a set of perspectives on ‘too much sitting’ that can guide future research. As the theme papers demonstrate, recent epidemiologic evidence, supported by physiologic studies, is consistent in identifying sedentary behavior as a distinct health risk,” Owen said.
“However, to build evidence-based approaches for addressing sedentary behavior and health, there is the need for research to develop new measurement methods, to understand the personal, social, and environmental factors that influence sedentary behaviors, and to develop and test the relevant interventions.”
Contributed by an international, multidisciplinary group of experts, papers include a compelling cross-national comparison of sedentary behavior, several reports on trends in sedentary behavior among children and a discussion of the multiple determinants of sedentary behavior and potential interventions.
The authors highlight the fact that broad-reach approaches and environmental and policy initiatives are becoming part of the sedentary behavior and health research agenda. In this context, mass media health promotion campaigns are already beginning to incorporate messages about reducing sitting time in the home environment, together with now-familiar messages about increasing physical activity.
In the workplace, there is already active marketing of innovative technologies that will act to reduce sitting time (such as height-adjustable desks). Community entertainment venues or events may also consider providing non-sitting alternatives. Community infrastructure to increase active transport (through walking or biking) is also likely to reduce time spent sitting in cars. If such innovations are more broadly implemented, systematic evaluations of these “natural experiments” could be highly informative, especially through assessing whether changes in sedentary time actually do result.