Breaks in Sedentary Time

Beneficial associations with metabolic risk

  1. Genevieve N. Healy, MPH1,
  2. David W. Dunstan, PHD2,
  3. Jo Salmon, PHD3,
  4. Ester Cerin, PHD4,
  5. Jonathan E. Shaw, MD2,
  6. Paul Z. Zimmet, MD2 and
  7. Neville Owen, PHD1
  1. 1Cancer Prevention Research Centre, School of Population Health, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia
  2. 2International Diabetes Institute, Melbourne, Australia
  3. 3School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences, Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia
  4. 4University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong
  1. Address correspondence and reprint requests to Genevieve Healy, Cancer Prevention Research Centre, School of Population Health, The University of Queensland, Herston, Queensland, Australia 4006. E-mail: g.healy{at}


OBJECTIVE—Total sedentary (absence of whole-body movement) time is associated with obesity, abnormal glucose metabolism, and the metabolic syndrome. In addition to the effects of total sedentary time, the manner in which it is accumulated may also be important. We examined the association of breaks in objectively measured sedentary time with biological markers of metabolic risk.

RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS—Participants (n = 168, mean age 53.4 years) for this cross-sectional study were recruited from the 2004–2005 Australian Diabetes, Obesity and Lifestyle study. Sedentary time was measured by an accelerometer (counts/minute−1 < 100) worn during waking hours for seven consecutive days. Each interruption in sedentary time (counts/min ≥100) was considered a break. Fasting plasma glucose, 2-h plasma glucose, serum triglycerides, HDL cholesterol, weight, height, waist circumference, and resting blood pressure were measured. MatLab was used to derive the breaks variable; SPSS was used for the statistical analysis.

RESULTS—Independent of total sedentary time and moderate-to-vigorous intensity activity time, increased breaks in sedentary time were beneficially associated with waist circumference (standardized β = −0.16, 95% CI −0.31 to −0.02, P = 0.026), BMI (β = −0.19, −0.35 to −0.02, P = 0.026), triglycerides (β = −0.18, −0.34 to −0.02, P = 0.029), and 2-h plasma glucose (β = −0.18, −0.34 to −0.02, P = 0.025).

CONCLUSIONS—This study provides evidence of the importance of avoiding prolonged uninterrupted periods of sedentary (primarily sitting) time. These findings suggest new public health recommendations regarding breaking up sedentary time that are complementary to those for physical activity.


  • Published ahead of print at on 5 February 2008. DOI: 10.2337/dc07-2046.

    The costs of publication of this article were defrayed in part by the payment of page charges. This article must therefore be hereby marked “advertisement” in accordance with 18 U.S.C Section 1734 solely to indicate this fact.

    • Accepted January 8, 2008.
    • Received October 24, 2007.
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  1. Diabetes Care vol. 31 no. 4 661-666
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