Low physical activity, high television viewing and poor sleep duration cluster in overweight and obese adults; a cross-sectional study of 398,984 participants from the UK Biobank

Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2017 Apr 28;14(1):57. doi: 10.1186/s12966-017-0514-y.


Background: An unhealthy lifestyle is one of the greatest contributors to obesity. A number of behaviours are linked with obesity, but are often measured separately. The UK Biobank cohort of >500,000 participants allows us to explore these behaviours simultaneously. We therefore aimed to compare physical activity, television (TV) viewing and sleep duration across body mass index (BMI) categories in a large sample of UK adults.

Methods: UK Biobank participants were recruited and baseline measures were taken between 2007 and 2010 and data analysis was performed in 2015. BMI was measured objectively using trained staff. Self-report questionnaires were used to measure lifestyle behaviours including the international physical activity questionnaire (IPAQ-short form) for physical activity. During data analysis, six groups were defined based on BMI; 'Underweight' (n = 2026), 'Normal weight' (n = 132,372), 'Overweight (n = 171,030), 'Obese I' (n = 67,903), 'Obese II' (n = 18,653) and 'Obese III' (n = 7000). The odds of reporting unhealthy lifestyle behaviours (low physical activity, high TV viewing or poor sleep duration) were compared across BMI groups using logistic regression analysis.

Results: Overweight and obese adults were more likely to report low levels of physical activity (≤967.5 MET.mins/wk) ('Overweight'-OR [95% CI]: 1.23 [1.20 to 1.26], 'Obese I' 1.66 [1.61-1.71], 'Obese II' 2.21 [2.12-2.30], and 'Obese III' 3.13 [2.95 to 3.23]) compared to 'Normal weight' adults. The odds of reporting high TV viewing (3 h/day) was greater in 'Overweight' (1.52 [1.48 to 1.55]) and obese adults ('Obese I' 2.06 [2.00-2.12], 'Obese II' 2.69 [2.58-2.80], 'Obese III' 3.26 [3.07 to 3.47]), and poor sleep duration (<7, >8 h/night) was higher in 'Overweight' (1.09 [1.07 to 1.12]) and obese adults ('Obese I' 1.31 [1.27-1.34], 'Obese II' 1.50 [1.44-1.56], 'Obese III' (1.78 [1.68 to 1.89]) compared to the 'Normal weight' group. These lifestyle behaviours were clustered, the odds of reporting simultaneous low physical activity, high TV viewing and poor sleep (unhealthy behavioural phenotype) was higher than reporting these behaviours independently, in overweight and obese groups. 'Obese III' adults were almost six times more likely (5.47 [4.96 to 6.05]) to report an unhealthy behavioural phenotype compared to the 'Normal weight' group.

Conclusions: Overweight and obese adults report low levels of physical activity, high TV viewing and poor sleep duration. These behaviours seem to cluster and collectively expose individuals to greater risk of obesity. Multiple lifestyle behaviours should be targeted in future interventions.

Keywords: Lifestyle; Obesity; Physical activity; Sedentary; Sleep.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Biological Specimen Banks
  • Body Mass Index*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Life Style*
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity*
  • Odds Ratio
  • Overweight
  • Recreation
  • Sleep*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Television*
  • Thinness
  • United Kingdom