Energy expenditure of interruptions to sedentary behavior

Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2011 Jun 27;8:69. doi: 10.1186/1479-5868-8-69.


Background: Advances in technology, social influences and environmental attributes have resulted in substantial portions of the day spent in sedentary pursuits. Sedentary behavior may be a cause of many chronic diseases including obesity, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes and the metabolic syndrome. Research demonstrated that breaking up sedentary time was beneficially associated with markers of body composition, cardiovascular health and type 2 diabetes. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to quantify the total energy expenditure of three different durations of physical activity within a 30-minute sedentary period and to examine the potential benefits of interrupting sedentary behavior with physical activity for weight control.

Methods: Participants completed four consecutive 30-minute bouts of sedentary behavior (reading, working on the computer, or doing other desk activities) with and without interruptions of walking at a self-selected pace. Bout one contained no walking interruptions. Bout two contained a 1-minute walking period. Bout three contained a 2-minute walking period. Bout four contained a 5-minute walking period. Body composition and resting metabolic rate were assessed.

Result: Twenty males and females (18-39 years) completed this study. Results of the repeated measures analysis of variance with post-hoc testing showed that significantly more energy was expended during each 30 minute sedentary bout with a walking break than in the 30 minute sedentary bout (p < 0.05 for all comparisons). On average, participants expended an additional 3.0, 7.4, and 16.5 additional net or activity kilocalories during bouts 2, 3, and 4, respectively compared with bout 1. When extrapolated for a full eight-hour working day, this data shows that an individual would theoretically expend an additional 24, 59 or 132 kilocalories per day, if they stood up and walked at a normal, self selected pace for one, two or five minutes every hour, respectively, compared with sitting for the 8-hour period.

Conclusions: This study demonstrated that making small changes, such as taking a five minute walking break every hour could yield beneficial weight control or weight loss results. Therefore, taking breaks from sedentary time is a potential outlet to prevent obesity and the rise of obesity in developed countries.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anthropometry
  • Basal Metabolism
  • Body Composition
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Energy Metabolism*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Life Style
  • Male
  • Obesity / prevention & control
  • Sedentary Behavior*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Walking
  • Weight Loss
  • Young Adult