How sedentary are older adults?

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Today’s post comes from Juliet Harvey. You can find out more about Mrs Harvey at the bottom of this post.  To submit your own post describing research of interest on sedentary behaviour, please contact email saunders dot travis at gmail dot com.

With recent studies suggesting a link between sedentary behaviour, health and well-being it is important to consider the sedentariness of older adults. Two recent systematic reviews have examined the levels of sedentary behaviour in older adults.  Both papers took a global perspective and examined a range of measurement of sedentary behaviour reported by peer reviewed sources.

The first paper (Harvey et al., 2013) examined the prevalence of sedentary behaviour, where “cut-points” were used to give population prevalence of various levels and modes of sedentary behaviour.  Almost 60% of older adult’s reported sitting for more than 4 h per day, 65% sat in front of a screen for more than 3 h daily and over 55% reported watching more than 2 h of TV. However, when measured objectively, in a small survey, it was found that 67% of the older population were sedentary for more than 8.5 h daily.

The second paper (Harvey et al., 2014) examined the average levels of sedentary behaviour reported by and measured in older adults.  Objective measurement of SB, by accelerometry, shows that older adults spend an average of 9.4 hours daily sedentary in a waking day.  Self-report of SB is lower at 5.3 hours daily, with 3.3 hours TV viewing reported.

As is seen in other studies, both papers found there were various methods employed to define and measures sedentary behaviour.  There were vast difference between objective and subjective measurement of sedentary behaviour. These papers show that older adults do exhibit high levels of sedentary behaviour, which are similar to that of the adult population, despite the fact they may accumulate the sedentary time in different patterns.


Dr Juliet Harvey

Mrs Juliet Harvey

About the author: Juliet Harvey is a physiotherapist and researcher in the Institute for Applied Health Research at Glasgow Caledonian University.  Her research focuses on reducing sedentary behaviour in older adults.  Juliet hopes to complete her PhD by summer 2015.  Her contact details can be found here.







Harvey JA, Chastin SFM, Skelton DA. How Sedentary are Older People? A Systematic Review of the Amount of Sedentary Behavior. Journal of Aging and Physical Activity. 2014; In Press.

Harvey JA, Chastin SFM, Skelton DA. Prevalence of Sedentary Behavior in Older Adults: A Systematic Review. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2013;10(12).

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