Targeting Reductions in Sitting Time to Increase Physical Activity and Improve Health

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Abstract

New evidence suggests that reductions in sedentary behavior may increase physical activity and improve health. These findings point to new behavioral targets for intervention and new ways to think about intervening to increase overall physical activity in the population. This report provides a knowledge update reflecting the rapid accumulation of new evidence related to sedentary behavior and health among adults. Recent observational studies suggest that leveraging the time-inverse relationship between sedentary and active behaviors by replacing sitting with standing, light- or moderate-intensity activity can have important health benefits, particularly among less active adults. Clinical studies are providing evidence of the probable physiologic mechanisms underlying these associations, as well as insights into the cardiometabolic impact of breaking up and reducing sedentary behavior. In contrast to the well-established behavioral theories that guide the development and dissemination of evidence-based interventions to increase moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity, much less is known about how to reduce sedentary time to increase daily activities. It has become clear that the environmental, social, and individual level determinants for sedentary time are distinct from those linked to the adoption and maintenance of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity. As a result, novel intervention strategies that focus on sitting and lower-intensity activities by leveraging the surrounding environment (e.g., workplace, school, and home) as well as individual-level cues and habits of sedentary behavior are being tested to increase the potency of interventions designed to increase overall physical activity. Herein we summarize the solutions-oriented research across the behavioral research framework, with a focus on highlighting areas of synergy across disciplines and identifying gaps for future research.

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