Overweight and obesity are defined as abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that presents a health risk. Even in athletes an increased adiposity affects health and performance. Sedentary behaviour has been associated with higher levels of adiposity, independent of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity. However, it is unclear whether this independent relationship still exists in highly trained athletes. The aim of this study was to examine the association of sedentary behaviour with body fatness in elite athletes. Cross-sectional data from 82 male athletes (mean age 22 years) were used. Total and regional body composition was measured by dual energy X-ray absorptiometry. Self-reported time spent in sedentary behaviour and weekly training time was assessed in all participants at one time point and multiple regression analyses were used. Sedentary behaviour predicted total fat mass (β = 0.77; 95% CI: 0.36-1.19, P < 0.001) and trunk fat mass (β = 0.25; 95% CI: 0.07-0.43, P = 0.007), independent of age, weekly training time, and residual mass (calculated as weight-dependent variable) but not abdominal fat. Also, no associations of sedentary behaviour with fat-free mass, appendicular lean soft tissue, and body mass index were found. These findings indicate that athletes with higher amounts of sedentary behaviour presented higher levels of total and trunk fatness, regardless of age, weekly training time, and residual mass. Therefore, even high moderate-to-vigorous physical activity levels do not mitigate the associations between sedentary behaviour and body fatness in highly trained athletes.
Keywords: athletes; body composition; fat mass; physical activity; trunk fat mass.