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Sedentary Behaviour and Chronic Disease: Mechanisms and Future Directions

Accepted version

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Matthews, CE 
Dashti, SG 
Doherty, AR 
Bergouignan, A 


Recent updates to national physical activity guidelines now highlight the importance of reducing sedentary time. However, at present only general recommendations are possible (i.e. “Sit less, move more”). There remains a need to investigate the strength, temporality, specificity and dose-response nature of sedentary behaviour associations with chronic disease, along with potential underlying mechanisms. Stemming from a recent research workshop organised by the Sedentary Behaviour Council themed ‘‘Sedentary behaviour mechanisms—biological and behavioural pathways linking sitting to adverse health outcomes”, this paper aims to: 1) discuss existing challenges and scientific discussions within this advancing area of science, 2) highlight and discuss emerging areas of interest, and 3) point to pertinent future directions. A brief knowledge update is provided, reflecting upon current and evolving thinking/discussions, and the rapid accumulation of new evidence linking sedentary behaviour to chronic disease. Succinct research 'action-points' are made at the end of each section – spanning from measurement systems and analytic methods, genetic epidemiology, causal mediation and experimental studies, to biological and behavioural determinants and mechanisms. A better understanding of whether and how sedentary behaviour is causally related with chronic disease will allow for more meaningful conclusions in the future and assist in refining both clinical and public health policies/recommendations.



cardiometabolic, epidemiology, exercise, measurement, mediation, physical activity, physiology, sitting, Chronic Disease, Exercise, Humans, Sedentary Behavior

Journal Title

Journal of Physical Activity and Health

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Human Kinetics Publishers Inc.
Medical Research Council (MC_UU_12015/3)
Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (CUH) (146281)
National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) (via Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute) (APP 1142685)
Medical Research Council (MC_UU_12015/1)
Department of Health (via National Institute for Health Research (NIHR)) (NF-SI-0617-10149)
MRC (MC_UU_00006/4)
This work was supported by the UK Medical Research Council [grant number MC_UU_12015/3 and MC_UU_12015/1]. PCD and DWD are supported by National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia (NHMRC) Fellowships (#1142685 and #1078360). E.H. van Roekel was financially supported by Wereld Kanker Onderzoek Fonds (WKOF), as part of the World Cancer Research Fund International grant programme (grant number 2016/1620). BL is supported by a Mid-Career Research Fellowship from the Victorian Cancer Agency. AD is supported by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Oxford Biomedical Research Centre (BRC). The views expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the UK NHS, NIHR or Department of Health.