Adult sedentary behavior: a systematic review

Am J Prev Med. 2012 Mar;42(3):e3-28. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2011.10.020.


Context: While the health benefits of meeting moderate/vigorous-intensity physical activity (MVPA) guidelines have been well established, the health risks of sedentary behavior, independent of meeting MVPA guidelines, are becoming evident. Sedentary behavior may require different interventions, based on correlates that differ from MVPA. The current review aimed to collect and appraise the current literature on correlates of sedentary behaviors among adults.

Evidence acquisition: Papers were considered eligible if they were published in English-language peer-reviewed journals and examined correlates of sedentary behaviors. Literature searches were conducted in August 2011 among ten search engines yielding 3691 potentially relevant records; of these, 109 papers (82 independent samples) passed eligibility criteria.

Evidence synthesis: Articles included were published between 1982 and 2011, with sample sizes ranging from 39 to 123,216. Eighty-three were cross-sectional, 24 followed a prospective design, one was experimental baseline data, and one was cohort design. Sedentary behavior was primarily measured as TV viewing or computer use, followed by analysis of a more omnibus assessment of time spent sitting. Evidence was present for sedentary behavior and correlates of education, age, employment status, gender, BMI, income, smoking status, MVPA, attitudes, and depressive symptoms/quality of life. Notable differences by specific sedentary behaviors were present that aided in the explanation of findings.

Conclusions: Results point to the high specificity of various sedentary behaviors (e.g., TV viewing vs sitting and socializing), suggesting that the research domain is complex and cannot be considered the simple absence of MVPA. Several sociodemographic and health factors appear reliably linked to sedentary behavior, yet there is an obvious absence of research focused on cognitive, social, and environmental factors that could be of use in anti-sedentary behavior interventions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Guidelines as Topic
  • Health Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Leisure Activities*
  • Motor Activity
  • Sedentary Behavior*