What do older people do when sitting and why? Implications for decreasing sedentary behaviour

Victoria J. Palmer, Cindy M. Gray, Claire F. Fitzsimons, Nanette Mutrie, Sally Wyke, Ian J. Deary, Geoff Der, Sebastien F.M. Chastin, Dawn A. Skelton, Seniors USP Team

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

69 Downloads (Pure)


BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: Sitting less can reduce older adults' risk of ill health and disability. Effective sedentary behavior interventions require greater understanding of what older adults do when sitting (and not sitting), and why. This study compares the types, context, and role of sitting activities in the daily lives of older men and women who sit more or less than average. RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS: Semistructured interviews with 44 older men and women of different ages, socioeconomic status, and objectively measured sedentary behavior were analyzed using social practice theory to explore the multifactorial, inter-relational influences on their sedentary behavior. Thematic frameworks facilitated between-group comparisons. RESULTS: Older adults described many different leisure time, household, transport, and occupational sitting and non-sitting activities. Leisure-time sitting in the home (e.g., watching TV) was most common, but many non-sitting activities, including "pottering" doing household chores, also took place at home. Other people and access to leisure facilities were associated with lower sedentary behavior. The distinction between being busy/not busy was more important to most participants than sitting/not sitting, and informed their judgments about high-value "purposeful" (social, cognitively active, restorative) sitting and low-value "passive" sitting. Declining physical function contributed to temporal sitting patterns that did not vary much from day-to-day. DISCUSSION AND IMPLICATIONS: Sitting is associated with cognitive, social, and/or restorative benefits, embedded within older adults' daily routines, and therefore difficult to change. Useful strategies include supporting older adults to engage with other people and local facilities outside the home, and break up periods of passive sitting at home.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)686-697
Number of pages12
JournalThe Gerontologist
Issue number4
Early online date15 May 2018
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2019


  • sedentary behaviour
  • views
  • older people
  • qualitative
  • social practice model
  • intervention
  • experience


Dive into the research topics of 'What do older people do when sitting and why? Implications for decreasing sedentary behaviour'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this