What is it about?

Due to modernization, urbanisation and technologization many people spent a great amount of time being sedentary (i.e., sitting). For example, in the work domain it is very common to sit many hours over the day. Such trends are also observed in Asia, a continent that is fast transforming. Unfortunately, spending too much time sitting is related to negative health outcomes such as heart disease, quality of life and wellbeing. The relationships between sedentary behavior and health do not disappear in people who are somewhat active. As such, it is important to understand the factors that might be related to how long people spent being sedentary. These factors are likely individual (e.g., people might enjoy to sit), social (e.g., social network promotes sitting), environmental (e.g., office environments encourage sitting), and political and/or cultural (e.g., are there regulations that support people to interrupt sitting time). This work was carried out to identify such factors in Asian adults living in Asia. We searched the scientific literature and identified 49 studies from 12 countries (13 studies from Japan and 12 from China) that provided some information on the factors related to sedentary behavior. In total 118 of such factors were studied. We found that higher age and education, living in an urban area, lower mental health, and less public transport stops (in older East Asians) were related to accumulating more sedentary behavior time throughout the day. People who had more income accumulated more sedentary time during leisure. Higher education related to more time spent being sedentary at work. Finally, being an unmarried women in the Middle East was related to more sedentary time.

Featured Image

Why is it important?

This work is important because sedentary behavior is a key health behavior that many would probably not think of. Also, not many research works have been concerned with sedentary behavior in Asians; most are about Europe, North America and Australia. However, Asia is where more than 60% of the world population lives, and there is a stark increase in the number of people having negative health behaviors. In order to address sedentary behavior it is important to understand the factors that are likely to contribute to it. As such, this work is a key resource for researchers and practitioners working on this issue on the continent.


Despite the fact that we found some consistent correlates of sedentary behavior in Asian adults, many questions remain unanswered. First, only 12 countries had research available and, as such, conclusions are not necessarily generalizable. The whole Central Asian Region did not contribute a single study. Similarly, most studies were from countries with a higher income status. However, lower-middle income countries are fast developing and a rise in sedentary behavior will likely occur. Secondly, many potentially important factors were not studied at all. For example, psychological factors such as attitudes towards sitting were not explored. Also, key micro-environment features, such as, number of TVs at home were not assessed. This leaves a huge gap in the literature. Lastly, the available studies were not always very informative because researchers mainly relied on cross-sectional analysis and self-reports when measuring sedentary behavior. More qualitative work and longitudinal designs (measuring factors and sedentary behavior at one point and a few years down the line) is warranted. Also, if feasible, it would be helpful to measure sedentary behavior using devices. However, this is important and not always warranted.

Dr Andre Matthias Müller
National University of Singapore

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Correlates of sedentary behaviour in Asian adults: A systematic review, Obesity Reviews, January 2020, Wiley,
DOI: 10.1111/obr.12976.
You can read the full text:



The following have contributed to this page