To address the growing health concerns surrounding too much sedentary time, researchers investigated strategies to encourage older adults to be more active throughout the day and reduce the amount of time they spend sitting.
Thirty-eight adults age 60 or better participated in a 12-week intervention in which they were assigned to a “Sit Less” group or a “Get Active” group. Participants in the Sit Less group were encouraged reduce the amount of time they were sedentary each day by one hour. Participants in the Get Active group were instructed to achieve 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous exercise each week. The intervention also included regular in-person visits (once every one to two weeks) as well as twice-weekly phone calls with an exercise physiologist. Participants were also instructed to wear an armband every day, to measure physical activity and sedentary behavior.
By the end of the 12 weeks, participants in the Get Active group spent significantly more time engaged in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity than before the intervention, whereas the Sit Less group showed no change in physical activity. Additionally, neither group showed reduced sedentary time. Participants in the Sit Less group did, however, show significant improvements in quality of life, reflected by reduced pain, as well as significant improvements in the chair stand portion of the Short Physical Performance Battery, which also tests balance and gait speed. The Get Active group did not show these improvements.
While the Sit Less group did not show reductions in sedentary time, this group did show improvements in other areas (reduced pain and better physical performance) which the Get Active group did not show. This may mean that even reducing the amount of time spent sitting still by a small amount can have positive outcomes. The researchers suggested that not finding reductions in sedentary time may have been due to inaccurate measurements by the armband or by a reduced number of visits by the exercise physiologist in later weeks. The results confirmed previous research that suggests solely targeting physical activity is not enough to reduce sedentary time.
Barone Gibbs B, Brach JS, Byard T, et al. Reducing sedentary behavior versus increasing moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity in older adults: a 12-week randomized, clinical trial. Journal of Aging and Health (2017); 29(2): 247–267.