Background: Sedentary behavior is defined as any waking behavior characterized by an energy expenditure of 1.5 METS or less while in a sitting or reclining posture. This study examines this definition by assessing the energy cost (METs) of common sitting, standing and walking tasks.
Methods: Fifty one adults spent 10 min during each activity in a variety of sitting tasks (watching TV, Playing on the Wii, Playing on the PlayStation Portable (PSP) and typing) and non-sedentary tasks (standing still, walking at 0.2, 0.4, 0.6, 0.8, 1.0, 1.2, 1.4, and 1.6 mph). Activities were completed on the same day in a random order following an assessment of resting metabolic rate (RMR). A portable gas analyzer was used to measure oxygen uptake, and data were converted to units of energy expenditure (METs).
Results: Average of standardized MET values for screen-based sitting tasks were: 1.33 (SD: 0.24) METS (TV), 1.41 (SD: 0.28) (PSP), and 1.45 (SD: 0.32) (Typing). The more active, yet still seated, games on the Wii yielded an average of 2.06 (SD: 0.5) METS. Standing still yielded an average of 1.59 (SD: 0.37) METs. Walking MET values increased incrementally with speed from 2.17 to 2.99 (SD: 0.5 - 0.69) METs.
Conclusions: The suggested 1.5 MET threshold for sedentary behaviors seems reasonable however some sitting based activities may be classified as non-sedentary. The effect of this on the definition of sedentary behavior and associations with metabolic health needs further investigation.