Exploration of sedentary behaviour among GPs: a cross-sectional study

BJGP Open. 2022 Aug 30;6(2):BJGPO.2021.0196. doi: 10.3399/BJGPO.2021.0196. Print 2022 Jun.


Background: Sedentary behaviour, which may have increased among GPs due to increasing use of telemedicine, is associated with many illnesses and increased all-cause mortality.

Aim: To explore levels of sedentary behaviour among GPs and General Practice Specialty Trainees (GPSTs).

Design & setting: Sequential, cross-sectional design (initial online sedentary behaviour questionnaire and subsequent thigh-worn accelerometer substudy) of GPs and GPSTs in Northern Ireland.

Method: Self-reported questionnaire data were aggregated and compared with device-measured accelerometry data.

Results: Data from 353 participants (17.7% of GPs and GPSTs in Northern Ireland) revealed doctors in general practice self-reported higher workday sedentary time (10.33 hours, SD 2.97) than those in secondary care (7.9 hours, SD 3.43 [mean difference {MD} 2.43 hours; P<0.001]). An active workstation (for example, sit-stand desk), was used by 5.6% of participants in general practice, while 86.0% of those without one would consider using one in future. Active workstation users self-reported lower workday sedentary time (7.88 hours, SD 3.2) than non-users (10.47 hours, SD 2.88 [MD -2.58 hours, P = 0.001]). Accelerometer substudy participants underestimated their workday sedentary time by 0.17 hours (95% confidence interval [CI] = -1.86 to 2.20; P = 0.865), and non-workday sedentary time by 2.67 hours (95% CI = 0.99 to 4.35; P = 0.003). Most GPs (80.7%) reported increased workday sitting time compared to prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, while 87.0% would prefer less workday sitting time.

Conclusion: GPs have high levels of workday sedentary time, which may be detrimental to their health. It is imperative to develop methods to address sedentary behaviour among GPs on workdays, both for their own health and the health of their patients.

Keywords: exercise; general practice; physical activity; primary health care; sedentary behaviour.