Start with reducing sedentary behavior: A stepwise approach to physical activity counseling in clinical practice

Patient Educ Couns. 2022 Jun;105(6):1353-1361. doi: 10.1016/j.pec.2021.09.019. Epub 2021 Sep 13.


Recently, sedentary behavior recommendations have been included in the public health guidelines of multiple countries, pointing to new opportunities for prevention of chronic disease as well as a potential strategy for initiating long-term behavior change.

Objective: To propose an evidence-informed approach to physical activity counseling that starts with a focus on reducing sedentary time.

Methods: We put forward a case for addressing changes in sedentary behavior in clinical practice using a narrative review. We also propose a new approach for the assessment and counselling of patients with respect to movement behaviors.

Results: There is evidence to support a stepwise approach to physical activity counseling that starts with targeting sedentary behavior, particularly in those who are highly sedentary, or those who have chronic disease, or physical impairments.

Conclusions: Our approach encourages clinicians to consider sedentary behavior counseling as a critical first step to physical activity counseling. For many patients, this initial step of reducing sedentary behavior could build a pathway to an active lifestyle.

Practical implications: A shift from long periods of sedentary time to daily routines incorporating more light intensity physical activity could result in meaningful health improvements. Importantly, this approach may be more feasible for highly inactive patients.

Keywords: Chronic disease; Counseling; Exercise; Sitting.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Counseling / methods
  • Exercise* / psychology
  • Humans
  • Life Style
  • Sedentary Behavior*