Interventions for reducing sedentary behaviour in community-dwelling older adults

Sebastien Chastin*, Paul A. Gardiner, Juliet A. Harvey, Calum F. Leask, Javier Jerez Roig, Dori Rosenberg, Maureen C. Ashe, Jorunn L. Helbostad, Dawn A. Skelton

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
105 Downloads (Pure)


Older adults are the most sedentary segment of society, often spending in excess of 8.5 hours a day sitting. Large amounts of time spent sedentary, defined as time spend sitting or in a reclining posture without spending energy, has been linked to an increased risk of chronic diseases, frailty, loss of function, disablement, social isolation, and premature death.

To evaluate the effectiveness of interventions aimed at reducing sedentary behaviour amongst older adults living independently in the community compared to control conditions involving either no intervention or interventions that do not target sedentary behaviour.

Search methods
We searched the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL), MEDLINE, Embase, CINAHL, PsycINFO, PEDro, EPPI‐Centre databases (Trials Register of Promoting Health Interventions (TRoPHI) and the Obesity and Sedentary behaviour Database), WHO ICTRP, and up to 18 January 2021. We also screened the reference lists of included articles and contacted authors to identify additional studies.

Selection criteria
We included randomised controlled trials (RCTs) and cluster‐RCTs. We included interventions purposefully designed to reduce sedentary time in older adults (aged 60 or over) living independently in the community. We included studies if some of the participants had multiple comorbidities, but excluded interventions that recruited clinical populations specifically (e.g. stroke survivors).

Data collection and analysis
Two review authors independently screened titles and abstracts and full‐text articles to determine study eligibility. Two review authors independently extracted data and assessed risk of bias. We contacted authors for additional data where required. Any disagreements in study screening or data extraction were settled by a third review author.

Main results
We included seven studies in the review, six RCTs and one cluster‐RCT, with a total of 397 participants. The majority of participants were female (n = 284), white, and highly educated. All trials were conducted in high‐income countries. All studies evaluated individually based behaviour change interventions using a combination of behaviour change techniques such as goal setting, education, and behaviour monitoring or feedback. Four of the seven studies also measured secondary outcomes. The main sources of bias were related to selection bias (N = 2), performance bias (N = 6), blinding of outcome assessment (N = 2), and incomplete outcome data (N = 2) and selective reporting (N=1). The overall risk of bias was judged as unclear.

Primary outcomes

The evidence suggests that interventions to change sedentary behaviour in community‐dwelling older adults may reduce sedentary time (mean difference (MD) −44.91 min/day, 95% confidence interval (CI) −93.13 to 3.32; 397 participants; 7 studies; I2 = 73%; low‐certainty evidence). We could not pool evidence on the effect of interventions on breaks in sedentary behaviour or time spent in specific domains such as TV time, as data from only one study were available for these outcomes.

Secondary outcomes

We are uncertain whether interventions to reduce sedentary behaviour have any impact on the physical or mental health outcomes of community‐dwelling older adults. We were able to pool change data for the following outcomes.

• Physical function (MD 0.14 Short Physical Performance Battery (SPPB) score, 95% CI −0.38 to 0.66; higher score is favourable; 98 participants; 2 studies; I2 = 26%; low‐certainty evidence).

• Waist circumference (MD 1.14 cm, 95% CI −1.64 to 3.93; 100 participants; 2 studies; I2 = 0%; low‐certainty evidence).

• Fitness (MD ‐5.16 m in the 6‐minute walk test, 95% CI −36.49 to 26.17; higher score is favourable; 80 participants; 2 studies; I2 = 29%; low‐certainty evidence).

• Blood pressure: systolic (MD −3.91 mmHg, 95% CI ‐10.95 to 3.13; 138 participants; 3 studies; I2 = 73%; very low‐certainty evidence) and diastolic (MD −0.06 mmHg, 95% CI −5.72 to 5.60; 138 participants; 3 studies; I2 = 97%; very low‐certainty evidence).

• Glucose blood levels (MD 2.20 mg/dL, 95% CI −6.46 to 10.86; 100 participants; 2 studies; I2 = 0%; low‐certainty evidence).

No data were available on cognitive function, cost‐effectiveness or adverse effects.

Authors' conclusions
It is not clear whether interventions to reduce sedentary behaviour are effective at reducing sedentary time in community‐dwelling older adults. We are uncertain if these interventions have any impact on the physical or mental health of community‐dwelling older adults. There were few studies, and the certainty of the evidence is very low to low, mainly due to inconsistency in findings and imprecision. Future studies should consider interventions aimed at modifying the environment, policy, and social and cultural norms. Future studies should also use device‐based measures of sedentary time, recruit larger samples, and gather information about quality of life, cost‐effectiveness, and adverse event data.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberCD012784
Number of pages67
JournalCochrane Database of Systematic Reviews
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 25 Jun 2021


  • sedentary behaviour
  • interventions
  • older people
  • systematic literature review
  • Cochrane systematic reviews
  • blood pressure
  • bias
  • humans
  • middle aged
  • independent living
  • male
  • sitting position
  • randomized controlled trials as topic
  • blood glucose/analysis
  • waist circumference
  • time factors
  • selection bias
  • female
  • aged
  • behavior
  • goals
  • walk test

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology (medical)


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