High sitting time or obesity: Which came first? Bidirectional association in a longitudinal study of 31,787 Australian adults

Obesity (Silver Spring). 2014 Oct;22(10):2126-30. doi: 10.1002/oby.20817. Epub 2014 Jun 19.


Objective: Evidence on the direction of the association between sitting time and obesity is limited. The prospective associations between baseline total sitting time and subsequent changes in body mass index (BMI), and baseline BMI and subsequent changes in sitting time were examined.

Methods: BMI, from self-reported height and weight, and a single-item measure of sitting time were ascertained at two time points (3.4 ± 0.96 years apart) in a prospective questionnaire-based cohort of 31,787 Australians aged 45-65 years without severe physical limitations.

Results: In a fully adjusted model, baseline obesity was associated with increased sitting time among all participants (adjusted odds ratio [aOR] = 1.20 [95% CI, 1.11-1.30]; P < 0.001) and in most subgroups. The association was significant among those who were sitting <4 hours/day (aOR = 1.24 [95% CI, 1.07-1.44]; P = 0.004) and 4-8 hours/day at baseline (aOR=1.18 [95% CI, 1.06-1.32]; P = 0.003), but not in the high sitting groups (P = 0.111 and 0.188 for 8-11 and ≥11 sitting hours/day, respectively). Nonsignificant and inconsistent results were observed for the association between baseline sitting time and subsequent change in BMI.

Conclusions: Our findings support the hypothesis that obesity may lead to a subsequent increase in total sitting time, but the association in the other direction is unclear.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Australia
  • Body Mass Index
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / etiology
  • Obesity / physiopathology*
  • Odds Ratio
  • Posture
  • Prospective Studies
  • Sedentary Behavior*
  • Self Report