Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Review

Systematic review of sedentary behaviour and health indicators in school-aged children and youth

Mark S Tremblay1*, Allana G LeBlanc1, Michelle E Kho2, Travis J Saunders1, Richard Larouche1, Rachel C Colley1, Gary Goldfield1 and Sarah Connor Gorber3

Author Affiliations

1 Healthy Active Living and Obesity Research, Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute. 401 Smyth Road, Ottawa, Ontario, K1H 8L1, Canada

2 Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Johns Hopkins University. 600 North Wolfe Street, Baltimore, Maryland, 21202, USA

3 Office of the Task Force on Preventive Health Care, Public Health Agency of Canada. 785 Carling Avenue, Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0K9, Canada

For all author emails, please log on.

International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 2011, 8:98  doi:10.1186/1479-5868-8-98

Published: 21 September 2011


Accumulating evidence suggests that, independent of physical activity levels, sedentary behaviours are associated with increased risk of cardio-metabolic disease, all-cause mortality, and a variety of physiological and psychological problems. Therefore, the purpose of this systematic review is to determine the relationship between sedentary behaviour and health indicators in school-aged children and youth aged 5-17 years. Online databases (MEDLINE, EMBASE and PsycINFO), personal libraries and government documents were searched for relevant studies examining time spent engaging in sedentary behaviours and six specific health indicators (body composition, fitness, metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease, self-esteem, pro-social behaviour and academic achievement). 232 studies including 983,840 participants met inclusion criteria and were included in the review. Television (TV) watching was the most common measure of sedentary behaviour and body composition was the most common outcome measure. Qualitative analysis of all studies revealed a dose-response relation between increased sedentary behaviour and unfavourable health outcomes. Watching TV for more than 2 hours per day was associated with unfavourable body composition, decreased fitness, lowered scores for self-esteem and pro-social behaviour and decreased academic achievement. Meta-analysis was completed for randomized controlled studies that aimed to reduce sedentary time and reported change in body mass index (BMI) as their primary outcome. In this regard, a meta-analysis revealed an overall significant effect of -0.81 (95% CI of -1.44 to -0.17, p = 0.01) indicating an overall decrease in mean BMI associated with the interventions. There is a large body of evidence from all study designs which suggests that decreasing any type of sedentary time is associated with lower health risk in youth aged 5-17 years. In particular, the evidence suggests that daily TV viewing in excess of 2 hours is associated with reduced physical and psychosocial health, and that lowering sedentary time leads to reductions in BMI.

Inactivity; sitting; TV; body composition; fitness; metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease; self-esteem; pro-social behaviour, academic achievement