Sedentary behavior patterns and the risk of non-communicable diseases and all-cause mortality: A systematic review and meta-analysis

Int J Nurs Stud. 2023 Oct:146:104563. doi: 10.1016/j.ijnurstu.2023.104563. Epub 2023 Jul 13.


Background: The association between sedentary behavior and health-related outcomes has been well established, whereas it is inconclusive whether a sedentary behavior pattern is an additional risk factor for health-related outcomes independent of total sedentary time and physical activity.

Objectives: To determine sedentary behavior patterns and their association with risks of noncommunicable diseases and all-cause mortality and to assess whether this association is independent of total sedentary time and physical activity.

Design: This was a systematic review and meta-analysis.

Methods: Studies were obtained by searching the Web of Science Core Collection, PubMed/Medline, the Cochrane Library, Embase, CINAHL, and SPORTDiscus up to April 2023. All observational studies published in English or Chinese were included if they explored sedentary behavior patterns and their association with risks of abdominal obesity, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and all-cause mortality among individuals who had never experienced the outcome event before the baseline assessment. Data extraction using a standardized form and quality appraisal using two authoritative tools were then performed. All these steps were completed by two independent reviewers from December 2022 to May 2023. If data were sufficiently homogenous, meta-analyses were performed; otherwise, narrative syntheses were employed. Harvest plots were also used to visually represent the distribution of evidence.

Results: Eighteen studies comprising 11 prospective cohort studies and seven cross-sectional studies were included. The findings suggested that prolonged sedentary time and usual sedentary bout duration were two metrics that reflected the nonlinear dose-response effect of prolonged sedentary behavior patterns. Only extremely high levels of prolonged sedentary behavior patterns significantly increased the risk of adverse health outcomes, independent of physical activity. Whether prolonged sitting was an additional risk factor for adverse health outcomes, independent of total sedentary time, was inconclusive due to an insufficient number of primary studies that included total sedentary time as one of the potential covariates. There was some evidence that supported a sedentary bout that significantly increased the risk of adverse health outcomes was 30-60 min. The threshold of prolonged sedentary time differed with outcomes, and future studies are needed to make this threshold more precise.

Conclusion: A prolonged sedentary behavior pattern was associated with increased risks of several major noncommunicable diseases and all-cause mortality. People, especially those who do not reach the recommended level of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity, are encouraged to interrupt sedentary bouts every 30 to 60 min and limit prolonged sedentary time per day as much as possible.

Tweetable abstract: Breaking up consecutive sedentary bouts >30 to 60 min and substituting them with brief bouts of physical activity.

Keywords: All-cause mortality; Noncommunicable diseases; Sedentary behavior; Sedentary behavior pattern; Systematic review.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Exercise
  • Humans
  • Noncommunicable Diseases*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Sedentary Behavior*