How Sedentary Are Older People? A Systematic Review of the Amount of Sedentary Behavior

in Journal of Aging and Physical Activity
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Background/objectives:

Sedentary behavior (SB), defined as sitting (nonexercising), reclining, and lying down (posture), or by low energy expenditure, is a public health risk independent to physical activity. The objective of this systematic literature review was to synthesize the available evidence on amount of SB reported by and measured in older adults.

Data source:

Studies published between 1981 and 2014 were identified from electronic databases and manual searching. Large-scale population studies/surveys reporting the amount of SB (objective/subjective) in older adults aged ≥ 60 years of age were included. Appraisal and synthesis was completed using MOOSE guidelines.

Results:

349,698 adults aged ≥ 60 within 22 studies (10 countries and 1 EU-wide) were included. Objective measurement of SB shows that older adults spend an average of 9.4 hr a day sedentary, equating to 65–80% of their waking day. Self-report of SB is lower, with average weighted self-reports being 5.3 hr daily. Within specific domains of SB, older adults report 3.3 hr in leisure sitting time and 3.3 hr watching TV. There is an association with more time spent in SB as age advances and a trend for older men to spend more time in SB than women.

Conclusion/implications:

Time spent sedentary ranges from 5.3–9.4 hr per waking day in older adults. With recent studies suggesting a link between SB, health, and well-being, independent of physical activity, this is an area important for successful aging.

Limitations:

Different methodologies of measurement and different reporting methods of SB made synthesis difficult. Estimated SB time from self-report is half of that measured objectively; suggesting that most self-report surveys of SB will vastly underestimate the actual time spent in SB.

Harvey is a PhD student with the School of Health and Life Sciences, Institute of Applied Health Research, Glasgow Caledonian University, Glasgow, United Kingdom. Chastin is a senior research fellow with the School of Health and Life Sciences, Institute of Applied Health Research, Glasgow Caledonian University, Glasgow, United Kingdom. Skelton is a professor of ageing and health with the School of Health and Life Sciences, Institute of Applied Health Research, Glasgow Caledonian University, Glasgow, United Kingdom.

Address author correspondence to Juliet A. Harvey at Juliet.Harvey@gcu.ac.uk.
Journal of Aging and Physical Activity