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Sedentary behaviour and health: mapping environmental and social contexts to underpin chronic disease prevention
  1. Neville Owen1,
  2. Jo Salmon2,
  3. Mohammad Javad Koohsari1,
  4. Gavin Turrell3,
  5. Billie Giles-Corti4
  1. 1Behavioural Epidemiology Laboratory, Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  2. 2School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences, Deakin University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  3. 3School of Public Health and Social Work, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
  4. 4McCaughey VicHealth Centre for Community Wellbeing, Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Neville Owen, Behavioural Epidemiology Laboratory, Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute, Melbourne, VIC 3004, Australia; neville.owen{at}


The time that children and adults spend sedentary–put simply, doing too much sitting as distinct from doing too little physical activity—has recently been proposed as a population-wide, ubiquitous influence on health outcomes. It has been argued that sedentary time is likely to be additional to the risks associated with insufficient moderate-to-vigorous physical activity. New evidence identifies relationships of too much sitting with overweight and obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, some cancers and other adverse health outcomes. There is a need for a broader base of evidence on the likely health benefits of changing the relevant sedentary behaviours, particularly gathering evidence on underlying mechanisms and dose–response relationships. However, as remains the case for physical activity, there is a research agenda to be pursued in order to identify the potentially modifiable environmental and social determinants of sedentary behaviour. Such evidence is required so as to understand what might need to be changed in order to influence sedentary behaviours and to work towards population-wide impacts on prolonged sitting time. In this context, the research agenda needs to focus particularly on what can inform broad, evidence-based environmental and policy initiatives. We consider what has been learned from research on relationships of environmental and social attributes and physical activity; provide an overview of recent-emerging evidence on relationships of environmental attributes with sedentary behaviour; argue for the importance of conducting international comparative studies and addressing life-stage issues and socioeconomic inequalities and we propose a conceptual model within which this research agenda may be addressed.

  • Epidemiology

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