How Sedentary Are University Students? A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

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A paper titled “How Sedentary Are University Students? A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis” has been published in Prevention Science on January 23, 2020; the full-text view-only version of the article is available here.

Study summary

Background: Accumulating high volumes of sedentary behaviour is a risk factor for multiple negative health-related outcomes. The objective of this review was to synthesise the evidence on the levels of sedentary behaviour in university students.

Methods: Screened records from 13 databases were included if: (i) published after 2007; and (ii) reported on university students’ amount of total or domain-specific sedentary behaviour. Sub-group and meta-regression analyses were conducted to investigate potential sources of heterogeneity (moderators).

Results: A total of 125 studies met the inclusion criteria. Most studies were cross-sectional (84%) and reported screen time (61%) or total sedentary time (39%). Self-reported data indicated that university students spend 7.29 hours per day being sedentary. The levels of total sedentary behaviour were significantly higher when measured with accelerometers (M = 9.82 hours per day). Computer use presented significantly higher prevalence over other modalities of screen time. Among the explored factors (i.e., countries’ income, age, gender, and study’s publication date), only publication date significantly moderated sedentary behaviour.

Conclusions: Findings suggest that a considerable proportion of university students (i) engage in higher levels of sedentary time compared to the general young adult population, and (ii) accumulate levels of sedentary time that have been associated with an increased risk for detrimental health outcomes. In addition, meta-regression analyses suggest that sedentary time has increased over the last 10-year period among university students. These findings may inform future initiatives and policies targeting university students’ sedentary behaviour. Further research is needed to identify the factors moderating sedentary behaviour in the university setting.

Authors and affiliations

Oscar Castro1; Jason Bennie1; Ineke Vergeer1; Grégoire Bosselut2; Stuart J.H. Biddle1

  1. Physically Active Lifestyles Research Group, Institute for Resilient Regions, University of Southern Queensland, Springfield Central, Queensland, Australia.
  2. Laboratory Epsylon “Dynamics of Human Abilities and Health Behavior” (EA 4556), University of Montpellier, Montpellier, Hérault, France.


Castro O, Bennie J, Vergeer I, Bosselut G, Biddle SJH. How Sedentary Are University Students? A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Prevention Science. 2020; 1-12. doi: 10.1007/s11121-020-01093-8

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