What is Sedentary Behaviour?

The Energy Expenditure Continuum

Sedentary behaviour refers to any waking activity characterized by an energy expenditure ≤ 1.5 metabolic equivalents and a sitting or reclining posture.  In general this means that any time a person is sitting or lying down, they are engaging in sedentary behaviour.  Common sedentary behaviours include TV viewing, video game playing, computer use (collective termed “screen time”), driving automobiles, and reading.

This definition of sedentary behaviour has been published in the journals Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism and Movement & Sport Sciences – Science & Motricité.  You can access the full letter at the following links: English Letter / French LetterSpanish Letter / Portuguese Letter  (thanks to Ana Lúcia André for created the Spanish and Portuguese translations, with help from Verónica Varela Mato).

The citation for this definition is:

Sedentary Behaviour Research Network. 2012. Standardized use of the terms “sedentary” and “sedentary behaviours”.  Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 37: 540–542.

Why do we care about sedentary behaviour?

Recent evidence suggests that having a high level of sedentary behaviour negatively impacts health independent of other factors including body weight, diet, and physical activity.  For example, a 12-year study of 17,000 Canadian adults found that those who spent most of their time sitting were 50% more likely to die during the follow-up than those that sit the least, even after controlling for age, smoking, and physical activity levels.  Given these and other findings, researchers are now studying the health impact of sedentary behaviour in a wide range of academic domains including epidemiology, population health, psychology, ergonomics, engineering, and physiology.

You can find links to other recent studies on sedentary behaviour on our Research page, while you can read more detailed study descriptions on our Study Summaries page.  News articles related to sedentary behaviour can be found in the In The News page, our Learning Resources section hosts graphics and videos (coming soon) focusing on specific issues related to sedentary behaviour.