Less Sitting, More Physical Activity, or Higher Fitness?

Mayo Clin Proc. 2015 Nov;90(11):1533-40. doi: 10.1016/j.mayocp.2015.08.005. Epub 2015 Oct 5.


Epidemiological studies have found that time spent in sedentary behaviors, levels of physical activity, and cardiorespiratory fitness are all associated with mortality rates. They are also related to the risks of obesity, type 2 diabetes mellitus, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, aging-associated frailty, and cancer. The evidence is such that the National Institutes of Health recently launched a new Common Fund initiative aimed at identifying the molecular transducers of adaptation to physical activity in various tissues and organs. It has been estimated that 9.4% of all 57 million deaths in the world in 2008 could be attributed to physical inactivity, which translates into more than 5 million deaths worldwide. Physical inactivity has a deleterious effect that is comparable to smoking and obesity. Importantly, this global estimate relates to levels of physical activity and does not take into account sedentary behavior and cardiorespiratory fitness. Currently, there are national and international guidelines for physical activity level that are highly concordant. The weekly recommendations include 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity, 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity, or some combination of moderate and vigorous activity with 2 days of resistance exercise. However, these guidelines offer no recommendations regarding sedentary time or goals for cardiorespiratory fitness levels. It will be increasingly important for disease prevention, successful aging, and reduction of premature mortality to broaden the focus of the public health message to include not only more physical activity but also less sitting and higher cardiorespiratory fitness. We briefly review the evidence and discuss key issues to be addressed to make this approach a reality.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cardiovascular Diseases* / physiopathology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases* / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Life Style
  • Motor Activity*
  • Obesity* / physiopathology
  • Obesity* / prevention & control
  • Physical Fitness
  • Public Health
  • Risk Reduction Behavior*
  • Sedentary Behavior